04/13/2003 11:00PM

Two generations on fast track


ARCADIA, Calif. - It will be hard to turn around during Kentucky Derby week at Churchill Downs without bumping into a Dollase. The California-based clan of trainers will try to turn the proceedings into a family affair.

Craig Dollase will be there with Elloluv, who is looking more and more like the filly to beat for all the lillies in the Kentucky Oaks. Father Wally and his wife, Cincy, will be on the scene with Ten Most Wanted, who will try to replicate his impressive Illinois Derby form in the Kentucky Derby.

Then there is Aimee Dollase, Wally's daughter and assistant trainer, as well as Ten Most Wanted's traveling companion, along with Sergio Salazar, the colt's experienced groom.

"He's been with my dad awhile and rubbed a lot of good horses," Aimee said. "We're lucky to have him."

At the age of 30 - freshly turned last Dec. 27 - Aimee Dollase is hardly a rookie to the racing world. But having grown up around the racetrack, she will always be little sister, even long after she is training a stable of her own and winning major races like her big brother, which is bound to happen someday.

For now she is content to stick close to Ten Most Wanted. This year she has accompanied the talented colt from Los Angeles to San Francisco, then on to the South Side of Chicago, where the Illinois Derby was run this year at Hawthorne, on April 5. After a brief trip back home, Aimee was ready to head for Kentucky, where she will supervise Ten Most Wanted's routine at Churchill Downs until her father settles into Louisville for the duration.

Certainly, she has had enough exposure to the pressure of big events. Aimee was on the job at Woodbine in 1996 when Jewel Princess won the Breeders' Cup Distaff, clinching an Eclipse Award in the process. She traveled with Sharp Cat to New York in 1998 and won the Ruffian and the Beldame. And in the last year she has made successful raids to Canada with Good Journey for the Atto Mile and to Chicago with Mananan McLir for the American Derby.

Aimee was alongside her father at Churchill Downs in 1996 when they ran Alyrob in the Derby. Alyrob was coming off a second-place finish (though he was disqualified) in the Santa Anita Derby, so hopes were high. He finished eighth in the Derby and injured an ankle in the race.

"He was ready to run a good one," Aimee recalled. "And considering he turned his ankle, he ran pretty well."

Aimee was 13 when she went to her first Kentucky Derby to witness her father run the hard-luck colt Momentus. He finished 14th, but just getting there was a minor miracle. As a 2-year-old of 1986, Momentus had impaled himself on the eighth pole at Hawthorne while on his way to an apparent victory in the Hawthorne Juvenile Stakes. Fortunately, his injuries were harder to look at than they were to heal.

Momentus had spooked at the starting gate that day, which was placed along the outer rail of the stretch. Not surprisingly, the memory lingered when the Dollase family reconvened at Hawthorne nearly 17 years later.

"I think that's one of the first things my dad asked about when he got there," Aimee said.

" 'Where will that starting gate be?' He wanted to make sure it was out of sight."

Ten Most Wanted, still lightly raced and subject to distraction, held up his part of the bargain and ran like a pro, winning by four lengths. It was not only what he did that pleased his people. It was how he did it, allowing himself to be rated and finishing with zeal.

"I noticed a real change in him between San Francisco and Hawthorne," Aimee said. "It was almost as if he suddenly realized what he was there to do."

Sometimes, in the breakneck rush to the Derby, it is overlooked that 3-year-old Thoroughbreds are still very young, both physically and mentally.

"Babies, yes," Dollase said. "And we expect so much from them. You hope they develop this time of year, and find a way to peak at the right time. That's why it was good to see the light go on for our colt. He'll be going through a lot in the next few weeks. But I think he'll be okay. He's a lot like his sire."

Ten Most Wanted is by Deputy Commander, winner of the 1997 Travers Stakes and Super Derby for the Dollases. Aimee, who was with Deputy Commander for his road trips, drew the comparisons.

"Both mentally and physically, they are almost the same," she said. "Very competitive, and they love to train. They even run in the same kind of equipment - a figure-eight and a ring bit. Sometimes we forget and call this colt 'Deputy,' they are so much alike."

For Ten Most Wanted, that may turn out to be a very good thing.