01/09/2003 12:00AM

What's up with Buddy Gil and 'Remember'

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ALBANY, Calif. - Always Remember took a step forward in last month's Gold Rush Stakes. Buddy Gil took a step back. Saturday's Golden Gate Derby should show where they are headed.

Going into the Gold Rush Stakes, a one-mile prep for Saturday's race, Buddy Gil was all the rage after graduating at a mile and coming back to win the six-furlong Golden Bear Stakes.

Always Remember was little more than an afterthought even though he had just won a $25,000 claimer at one mile.

Always Remember ran very well in the Gold Rush, losing to Spensive by a head after leading in the lane. Buddy Gil battled on a fast pace and faded badly over the sloppy track.

Always Remember's trainer, Art Sherman, doesn't have Kentucky Derby dreams, but he thinks he has a pretty nice 3-year-old.

"The distance is great," he said. "He's a true router. He's training forwardly. He's an off-the-pace type, so he'll have to weave his way through.

"He'll be a competitive horse, but I'm from the old school as far as the Derby goes. He's got to show me. We need to find out if the last race was a fluke."

Chuck Jenda, Buddy Gil's trainer, needs to figure out if his fifth-place finish in the Gold Rush was a fluke, too.

Jenda and assistant Bill Patterson believe the race can be considered a throwout. They were unhappy that Buddy Gil was three-wide as part of the pace.

There is also a question of whether Buddy Gil disliked the sloppy track.

Yozo, a maiden, tries a Derby

Trainer Steve Specht is careful about the placement of his horses, which makes the entry of Yozo in the Golden Gate Derby an interesting decision. Yozo is a maiden who was beaten one length by Rapier Dance, one of his rivals Saturday, in a maiden race last out.

Specht even passed a 3-year-old maiden turf race on Thursday to run Yozo on Saturday.

"He's been coming along," Specht said of the colt, who was last, beaten 20 lengths in his Oct. 19 debut at six furlongs. He finished fifth, beaten five lengths, in a one-mile race on the turf in his next start before the second-place finish in his last start.

"He had excuses," Specht said. "He was moving up and had to move out, then he moved back in. I think if the jockey had waited the inside would have opened up and he could have won."

Santa Rosa turf course approved

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved a $3 million expenditure to build a turf course for the Santa Rosa Fair.

Construction of the course will begin after the 2003 meeting concludes this summer and is expected to be done by 2004.

The course will displace a large portion of the infield and force reconfiguration of the nine-hole golf course there.

Northern California trainers have long requested turf racing on the fair circuit. Previously, the San Mateo County Fair, run at Bay Meadows, provided the only turf racing during summer months.

* Spensive and Always Remember are neighbors this weekend as well as rivals. Trainer Bob Baffert ships his horses to the Sherman barn when they run in northern California.

* Saturday's field of 11 is the largest for the Golden Gate Derby since 12 ran in 1997, the first time the race was run since 1959. The purse has been cut in half since then. It was $200,000 in 1997 and 1998, $150,000 in 1999-2001, $125,000 last year, and is $100,000 this year.