02/10/2005 12:00AM

Sharp Writer enters off big Beyer jump

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Saturday's $100,000 San Mateo Mile at Bay Meadows could be step one on the Kentucky Derby trail for the winner.

Even for a runner such as Stellar Magic, who is currently not nominated to the Triple Crown, a big effort here could catapult him into the Derby picture.

Seven 3-year-olds entered the one-mile race, which could be a springboard to graded competition. The San Mateo serves as a prep for the Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby on March 12.

At this time of year, all trainers are closely watching the development of their 3-year-olds. Sharp Writer, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, ran second by a nose to Buzzards Bay in the Golden Gate Derby on Jan. 15 in his first start against winners. Sharp Writer earned a 97 Beyer in that race, an improvement of 24 points over his previous best.

"He's kind of a late bloomer," Hollendorfer said. "He got a nice number, but was it because of the track? I just hope he continues to develop."

Each of the San Mateo runners has something to prove - even Texcess, who has earned $743,427 with wins in the Cal Cup Juvenile and Delta Jackpot.

Texcess was third in the Grade 2 San Rafael in his last start, when he stayed in Southern California rather than run in the Golden Gate Derby because of the possibility of an off track. He raced wide the whole trip and bit his tongue, causing a great deal of bleeding in his mouth.

"That race was a little better than it looks because of his trouble," said his trainer, Paul Aguirre. "He finished well. That race was a mile on a speed-favoring track with an inside bias. He was hung out four wide the whole way.

"We cut his blinkers way down to try to get him to relax early, but the jockey had to try to get position. We're hoping to teach him it's okay to be four lengths behind early."

Trainer Brian Pitnick is also trying to do that with Stellar Magic, who was last down the backstretch and roared home to win by four lengths in his last start, a six-furlong allowance race.

Pitnick said going a mile on Saturday is the next logical step for Stellar Magic.

With the speedy California Choice entered, sitting off the pace should be no problem for the rest of the field. They can't afford to give California Choice too easy a lead, though, because he should be able to handle the distance. California Choice stopped badly in his last start, against Stellar Magic, but he had stumbled at the start and was rushed up early.