09/15/2003 11:00PM

Super Derby deja vu for Dollase

Ten Most Wanted comes into the Super Derby off an impressive win in the Travers. Trainer Wally Dollase pulled off a Travers-Super Derby double with Deputy Commander in 1997.

BOSSIER CITY, La. - Trainer Wally Dollase has been down this road before. In 1997, he brought Travers winner Deputy Commander to Louisiana Downs and won the Super Derby. Saturday, he will try and pull off the same double with Deputy Commander's best son, Ten Most Wanted.

Based at Hollywood Park, Ten Most Wanted is expected to go favored in the Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby over Soto, the undefeated winner of the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby.

Following his three-length win in the Super Derby, Deputy Commander went on to finish second to Skip Away in the 1997 Breeders' Cup Classic at Hollywood Park. Ten Most Wanted could try to one-up his old man next month at Santa Anita.

"If he ran real good in the Super Derby, he would probably run in the Breeders' Cup Classic, especially since it's in our own backyard," said Dollase, 66.

But for now the focus is on the Super Derby. And focus is something Ten Most Wanted did with aplomb last out in the $1 million Travers, when he added blinkers. He stalked a hot pace, and cruised to an easy 4 1/2-length win over Peace Rules.

"He ran a brilliant race in the Travers," said Pat Day, regular rider of Ten Most Wanted.

But it wasn't just the equipment change that accounted for Ten Most Wanted's dominating performance, according to both Day and Dollase. Ten Most Wanted is a blossoming horse, and is still maturing despite a resume that already includes a four-length win the Grade 2 Illinois Derby and a second-place finish to Empire Maker in the Belmont Stakes.

"He really seems to be getting the hang of what's required of him, and his mind and his body have started to come together," said Day. "I felt early on he would be better later in the year, and possibly not at his very best until 4."

Day first rode Ten Most Wanted in March in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields.

"The first time I'd seen him was in northern California, and I was struck by his physical presence," he said. "He's a grand-looking individual, bright of eye, and he carries himself well physically."

Ten Most Wanted finished third that afternoon, and from the El Camino to the Illinois Derby, Day saw a "dramatic change" in the colt. He believes Ten Most Wanted has continued to make progress from race to race since, and that is a sentiment shared by many connected with the colt.

"I don't think we've seen his best," said Michael Jarvis, one of 11 partners in Ten Most Wanted. "He keeps getting bigger. According to Wally's daughter Aimee, he's bigger now than he was for the Travers. He's taller, stronger, and more mature. I think he's getting more powerful."

Dollase, who is also a partner in the colt, has seen continual improvement from Ten Most Wanted.

"Every race he gets better, in my opinion, unless he has bad luck," he said. "And the farther the better. He will get a mile and a half. Stamina is one of his fortes. That's one of the best things he has going for him."

Ten Most Wanted also has his sire's speed, looks, and mind, said Dollase. The trainer selected both as 2-year-olds at auction. He picked out Deputy Commander, who earned $1.9 million in his career, for $205,000 at Barretts, and Ten Most Wanted, who has earned $1.2 million, for $145,000 at Fasig-Tipton.

"They both look a lot alike," said Dollase, who purchased a Deputy Commander yearling at Keeneland on Sunday. "They are both big, strong horses. Not heavy horses, but tall and very impressive individuals. [Deputy Commander] really stamped his son. They both have the same star on their forehead, and as far as mental, both are very aggressive, but smart."

Ten Most Wanted's campaign has also closely mirrored that of Deputy Commander. Both finished second in the Grade 2 Swaps at Hollywood Park, then made equipment changes and headed east and won the Travers.

"There's only so many 3-year-old races once you know you have a good one that can get the distance," said Dollase. "[The schedule] worked good with Deputy Commander, and it's worked quite well with Ten Most Wanted."

Ten Most Wanted has held his form in top-class company all year, and his effort in the Illinois Derby on April 5 made him a much-talked-about horse going into this year's Kentucky Derby.

"There wasn't a horse in Kentucky training any better than him," said Day.

But Ten Most Wanted encountered costly trouble at the start of the Derby. Day said he stumbled while in an unusual position, and bumped with another rival. The next morning, Ten Most Wanted couldn't even jog, said Dollase.

It was determined his back was misaligned, and a chiropractor was called in to work on him. Ten Most Wanted returned to action in the Belmont and finished a strong second. In his next start, he was beaten a head by During in the Swaps. French cup blinkers were added for the Travers.

Following the Travers win, the decision was made to keep Ten Most Wanted with straight 3-year-olds and point for the Super Derby, said Jarvis. He expects most, if not all, of the Southern California-based partners in Ten Most Wanted to travel to Louisiana Downs on Saturday.

"I think virtually everybody in our partnership looks at this the way I look at it," said Jarvis, who also owned a piece of Deputy Commander. "We're so fortunate to have a horse that is this good, you want to get everything you can get out of it. You never know if it's going to happen again."

And so, while Ten Most Wanted might be that horse of a lifetime for some of the partners, they can take comfort in the fact that Wally Dollase is charting their course. After all, he has been down this road before.