04/02/2007 12:00AM

Santa Anita Derby will be big test for Bwana Bull


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Northern California racing fans will have two rooting interests Saturday at Santa Anita.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer will run Bwana Bull, winner of the California Derby and El Camino Real Derby, in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, and Smokey Stover, who may be America's top sprinter, will venture south to run in the Grade 2 Potrero Grande at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Bwana Bull worked seven furlongs under Russell Baze in 1:26.40 at Bay Meadows on Sunday.

"He's pretty laid back so he worked in company," said Baze. "We didn't want to do too much this close to the race. We went pretty slow early, but he finished strong."

Hollendorfer said he is running Bwana Bull in the Santa Anita Derby because the race has traditionally produced Kentucky Derby contenders.

"I analyzed all the [Derby prep] races," Hollendorfer said. "There are tough horses at every venue. We might as well be relatively close to home."

Bwana Bull needs to run well Saturday to continue on the Derby trail, Hollendorfer said.

"I think we have to find out if he stands up to the type of competition he'll meet [in Kentucky]," Hollendorfer said.

Baze will ride Bwana Bull on Saturday. But Bwana Bull is not Baze's only possible Kentucky Derby mount. On April 14 he will ride Delightful Kiss, third to Street Sense and Any Given Saturday in the Tampa Bay Derby, in the Arkansas Derby for trainer Pete Anderson, who is the father of local trainer Aggie Ordonez.

As for Smokey Stover, he hasn't run since winning the Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Sprint by a length on March 11. He has had only had one work since that victory. That was a five-furlong drill in 59.20 seconds, fastest of 10 at the distance that day, at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday.

Bonde eager for season's first baby race

Six 2-year-olds, who each has at least one bullet work, will contest the first 2-year-old race of the year in Northern California on Wednesday, including two from trainer Jeff Bonde's barn.

"I enjoy 2-year-olds," he said. "It's like being a general manager and putting out a new team. You're hoping to develop a new star."

Some trainers prefer not to run 2-year-olds so early in the year.

"I don't have the same opinion," Bonde said. "I worked for Jerry Dutton, and he'd run babies a quarter-mile, and they'd still be running at age 9 or 10. If they're prepared to race, race them, but you don't rush them or race them if they're not."

New running style for Vaca City Flyer

Vaca City Flyer, making her first start of the year, ran fourth behind winner Bonfante in last Saturday's California Turf Sprint Championship. Usually she contests the pace, but Vaca City Flyer was last early in the five-furlong race and finished strongly.

"She took off the last part," said jockey Dennis Carr. "It was a role reversal for her. I liked the way she finished."

Steve Sherman, who trains Vaca City Flyer in Northern California for his father, Art, said she would probably come back in the Monterey at the same distance on the turf here April 21.

Liebau clarifies position

Bay Meadows Racing Association president Jack Liebau held a meeting with track employees Sunday, explaining why he turned down an offer by California Horse Racing Board chairman Richard Shapiro last week that might have allowed Bay Meadows to race on its current surface in 2008.

The board on March 22 turned down a request by Bay Meadows to exempt the track from installing a synthetic surface for two years, and last week Shapiro said he would ask the board to consider a one-year exemption for the track if Bay Meadows could guarantee it would run in 2008.

Liebau told the employees that although it was "highly likely" Bay Meadows could race all of 2008, he couldn't guarantee it.

* Trainer Karen Haverty was placed on probation by the California Horse Racing Board for one year, through March 29, 2008, as a result of her horse Red Seattle exceeding carbon dioxide testing limits after he finished fourth in the fifth race at Santa Rosa last July 30. Haverty also was fined $3,000, but the fine will be stayed provided she has no further medication violations during her probation.

* Jockey Angel Felix was suspended for five racing days, April 7-13, for causing interference in the stretch while aboard Juranees in last Friday's fifth race. Juranees was disqualified from fourth to fifth.

* Trainers Mike Larson and Sherrie Monroe were fined $400 by Bay Meadows stewards for phenylbutazone overages.