02/06/2003 1:00AM

'Allamerican' homebred success

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - She proved herself against the best.

Champion Farda Amiga's toughest race last season was probably the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga in which Allamerican Bertie, the Klein family's homebred, set the pace and hung on grimly, beaten three-quarters of a length by a remarkable filly.

Farda Amiga is retired now but Allamerican Bertie, very much at a keen edge, seems ready, willing, and able to make a case for herself as one of the division leaders this year. She will be favored when she starts Saturday under jockey Jerry Bailey in the $100,000 Sabin Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.

Keen edge? She had the clockers comparing watches here last weekend when she drilled five furlongs in 58.60 seconds.

"She's always liked Gulfstream's dirt track," trainer Steve Flint said the other day. "But she has matured physically and I feel she is coming up to a big season. She will be pointed for a number of engagements in New York and that's why we asked Bailey to ride her. It looks like a very difficult division with Horse of the Year Azeri returning for another round, but Allamerican Bertie has run some very good races."

Last summer's Delaware Oaks was one of the best. She destroyed her field, winning by more than six lengths. The Falls City at Churchill Downs last fall, in which she beat the highly regarded Take Charge Lady, was another. But last month's Honey Fox Handicap on the grass here was a dull effort. Was there a problem?

"I take full responsibility for that one," Flint said. "The weather affected the inside of the turf course and we weren't aware of it. There was no training on the turf at that time. We probably shouldn't have run. She is just an average horse on the grass but well above average on the dirt. She will be staying on dirt."

Flint, 42, is in his second year as a head trainer after a long tenure as assistant to his father, Bernie Flint, one of Kentucky's most successful horsemen. The Kleins - Bert and Elaine, and son Richard - came into racing some 10 years ago with Bernie Flint as their trainer.

They raced claimers at first, gradually upgraded their stock, and began buying fillies to breed. One of the first was Clever Bertie, dam of Allamerican Bertie, who cost $14,000 at Keeneland. She never raced but has been a blue hen on the production line. Her first foal was Hurricane Bertie, who earned almost a million dollars. Her fourth foal, Allamerican Bertie, has earnings of more than $600,000.

The Kleins operated the Bank of Louisville, sold it last year, and are now concentrating on their stable and stud. They have about 35 horses in training with Steve Flint, including 20 juveniles.

Steve Flint has considerable company here as a second-generation horseman. Lou Goldfine's son, Mickey, has done well with his horses. J.J. Pletcher's son, Todd, and John Hennig's son, Mark, had outstanding campaigns in 2002. Scotty Schulhofer's son, Randy, and Michael Motion's son, Graham, are top young trainers, and there are others. It's a 12/365 profession, but if you truly love it, it's the best work of all.