12/16/2004 1:00AM

Seize the Day heads Gold Rush

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ALBANY, Calif. - While nationwide attention on 2-year-olds is focused on the Hollywood Futurity, Golden Gate Fields on Saturday has a stakes of its own for early Derby hopefuls, the $50,000-added Gold Rush Stakes at one mile.

Heading the field is , who won his debut by 11 lengths, then was a troubled third in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue, beaten only two lengths by probable Futurity favorite Declan's Moon.

"The Futurity was coming up such a tough race, we wanted to try to find an easy race for him to build his confidence," said Kristin Mulhall, Seize the Day's trainer.

Mulhall is confident her colt can manage the distance after the way he ran in the seven-furlong Prevue.

"He's bred to sprint, so we want to see how he'll handle two turns," she said. "He ran really good in his last race. He got into a ton of trouble. He got shut off three or four times, but he finished well when he changed leads and got clear."

Trainer Greg Gilchrist is also eager to give Danny Dingle his first race around two turns.

"We've been waiting to run the horse a route," Gilchrist said. "You never know if a horse can run a route until he actually does it."

Danny Dingle won his debut at Santa Rosa and was second in the San Mateo Stakes in his second start. He just won a six-furlong allowance race under Russell Baze in wire-to-wire style after using a stalking style in his first three starts.

"The way he ran last time kind of surprised me," Gilchrist said. "I had told Russell, 'Let's not let him lag.' He hadn't shown that kind of speed before, but he broke on top and nobody else went. The good part was he finished strong like he always does."

Trainer Aggie Ordonez sends out Chinese Checkers in the Gold Rush, and a good race would send him another step down the northern California road to the Derby.

"It gives us an opportunity to dream," she said, "especially when you have a colt who has won two of his first three starts."

Unlike Mulhall and Gilchrist, Ordonez knows her horse can get two turns. After finishing seventh in his debut, he has won two straight routing on the turf.

"This will give me an opportunity to see how much of the improvement is because of grass," she said. "I watch him around the barn, and he's improved. His whole attitude has changed."