02/17/2009 12:00AM

San Felipe may be next for Chocolate Candy

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ALBANY, Calif. - Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer may be on the road to Kentucky again after Chocolate Candy scored a better-than-looks victory in last weekend's Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields.

Hollendorfer's last two El Camino winners went to the Derby - Cause to Believe (13th in the Derby in 2006) and Bwana Bull (15th in 2007).

Critics will point to the fact that Chocolate Candy only won the 1 1/8-mile race by one-half length over Massone, who just won his maiden two races back and is still eligible for a first-level allowance.

But Chocolate Candy was well in control of things despite the narrow margin, according to his jockey, Russell Baze.

"He would have held off that horse even if we went around again," Baze said.

Hollendorfer will keep Chocolate Candy with him at Golden Gate for a week and then ship him to Santa Anita.

He said he might run the colt in the Grade 2, $200,000 San Felipe at 1 1/16 miles on March 14 before the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles on April 4.

"There are different approaches to the Kentucky Derby, but I think the fitter the horse the better his chance to win," Hollendorfer said. "A lot of people go in there with fewer races, but most horses that do well have a foundation under them."

Baze, who also rode Chocolate Candy to victory in the California Derby, said, "This colt is still developing. He's not quite fully matured mentally and even physically.

"It's just a question if he'll do things right. He'll have to relax better than Saturday, but he did in the California Derby."

In fact, Chocolate Candy won even though things didn't go according to plan.

Baze said his mount was "a little too fresh" so that he couldn't tuck him in to save some ground. He sat closer to the lead and moved sooner than usual, in part because the pace was slow.

Hollendorfer, who has two Kentucky Oaks victories on his resume, said Baze, who moved Chocolate Candy in tandem with Axel Foley to rally three wide on the second turn as they wore down pacesetting Aquicksting, had to go when he did.

"Some people may have thought he moved too soon, but that's what the rider had to do," Hollendorfer said. "If he waited where he was, it would have been much tougher."

Both Aquicksting and Axel Foley wilted into the lane. Chocolate Candy was challenged briefly by stablemate Rendezvous and then by Massone, who rallied along the rail.

Massone's jockey, Frank Alvarado, was one of those who thought Baze moved too soon.

"When I saw Russell move on the backstretch I loved it because I thought he was moving too soon, but we couldn't catch him," Alvarado said. "My horse just ran steady down the stretch."

Baze was never worried.

"I saw him," he said. "This colt always has a little in reserve in him. I knew if I could squeeze it out of him, he would win, and he was responding well."

Hollendorfer said he wished there had been a bigger field than the six horses that ran.

"I've long been a fan of larger fields," he said. "When there's a large field, the speed sets up better."

Hollendorfer said he was pleased with Rendezvous's third-place finish in his stakes debut and would try to find a stakes spot for him.

Baze keeps El Gato Malo focused

Baze picked up an earlier stakes win Saturday aboard El Gato Malo, who edged Cover Magic by one-half length in the 1 1/16-mile McCann's Mojave.

Cover Magic put his head in front between calls in the stretch, but Baze thought he could still win.

He said El Gato Malo tends to "goof off" and that he tried "to keep his mind focused" in the lane.

El Gato Malo grabbed the lead at the half-mile pole while between the early pacesetter, his stablemate Ghetto, and Cover Magic.

Baze said he was very confident in the lane, even though Cover Magic had the momentum to go by his horse.

"As soon as [El Gato Malo] saw him, I knew he'd dig in," Baze said.

The underrated Cover Magic is better on the turf than the main track, but he has placed in three main-track stakes for owner-trainer Alex Paszkeicz.

Paszkeicz, also the breeder, was pleased by the effort against El Gato Malo, a multiple graded stakes winner.

"I always felt he had a little ability. I've tried to determine how much. He's the kind of horse you know he's going to try," said Paszkeicz, who said he will keep the 5-year-old Cover Magic in Northern California.

Mawing, Alvarado battling for second

There's a hot jockey race - for second - at Golden Gate Fields. Baze leads the pack with 55 wins through the first 35 days of racing.

Leslie Mawing vaulted into second on the strength of a three-win day Sunday only to be overtaken by Alvarado, the man he passed, on Monday after Alvarado rode four winners. Alvarado now has 31 wins to Mawing's 28.

Hollendorfer leads Steve Sherman in the trainer standings, 31-25.

* Golden Gate Fields's "Snow Day" on Saturday has been rescheduled for March 7 because of weather forecasts predicting continued heavy rains throughout the week. Golden Gate had planned to bring in 40 tons of snow for youngsters to enjoy.

* The Thoroughbred Owners of California will host a free ownership seminar Saturday at 9 a.m. in the Bay View Lounge of the Turf Club. For information, call the TOC at (510) 599-7521.

* Golden Gate starts off the new week with a $19,273.50 carryover in the pick six.