11/21/2003 1:00AM

Sprint draws 9 juveniles


ALBANY, Calif. - The first steps on the northern California Derby trail begin Sunday at Golden Gate Fields with the $60,000-added Golden Bear Stakes.

Nine 2-year-olds were signed up for the six-furlong race, although some connections did so reluctantly.

"That's the way the thing came up," said trainer Bud Klokstad, who will enter stakes winners Market Report and Corvallis Dee. "I have no other choice but to go there. You can't pass up the race or your horse won't run for seven or eight weeks before the next stakes."

Trainer Chuck Jenda, who won the race with Buddy Gil last year, is sending out stakes winner Hajji's Honor, but he echoes Klokstad's sentiments, saying that a sprint is not the preferable option.

Both trainers ran their colts in the one-mile Bay Meadows Juvenile on Oct. 19. Market Report was a wire-to-wire victor after winning his maiden in his previous start. Hajji's Honor was second, while Corvallis Dee ran fourth as the favorite.

Buddy Gil won the Golden Bear after winning his maiden in a one-mile race.

The Golden Bear is the first of a series of five stakes races for current 2-year-olds, culminating in the $200,000 Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at 1 1/16 miles on March 13.

Following the Golden Bear is the one-mile Gold Rush on Dec. 13, the Grade 3 Golden Gate Derby at 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 10, and the Golden State Mile on Feb. 8.

Market Report won his maiden the same day Hajji's Honor took the San Mateo Stakes - and Market Report ran faster.

He could be the one to beat, although The Herc, Cosmic Glitter, and Razen Hazen may not let him see the lead.

Dennis Ward, Razen Hazen's trainer, believes his colt will be a factor despite his last-place finish behind The Herc in the Sunny Slope at Santa Anita in his last start.

"Forget that thing. Just put it in the ash can," Ward said. "The rider almost fell off at the start, and he rushed up from last down the backstretch before tiring."

Trainer Lloyd Mason thinks Trish's Diamond, who had a poor start in the San Mateo, can be a factor stalking. "He came back fine, and I'm sure he'll break fine," Mason said.

According to Mason, jockey Chance Rollins worked Trish's Diamond in 59.40 seconds for five furlongs on Nov. 14 and said the colt had "never been better."