03/15/2007 11:00PM

Bedlam Bertie tries to buck trend

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Speed has become a liability this month on the Santa Anita turf course. Going into Friday, more than two weeks had passed since a front-runner won a two-turn grass race.

The profile will be severely tested Sunday by front-runner Bedlam Bertie, who will try to race wire to wire in the $100,000 Crystal Water Handicap for Cal-breds at one mile on grass. Nine entered; Bedlam Bertie can win if he reproduces his sprint form at the longer trip.

"He won going two turns up north; I don't think a mile should be any trouble," trainer Mike Machowsky said.

Under normal circumstances, the confidence would be justified. But the turf here has been swallowing speed since early this month, and the trend gives several late-runners a legitimate chance to win the Crystal Water.

Stakes winners El Don, Epic Power, and Super Strut run from behind; allowance winner Hockey the General smoked the final quarter-mile of his last two starts in 23 seconds and will also fly late. Win or lose, Bedlam Bertie is the one to catch.

A 4-year-old gelding owned by Patricia Ford, Bedlam Bertie set slow fractions in a Feb. 18 sprint; he rolled to a convincing win in the $134,000 Sensational Star Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs. It was his fourth win from 12 starts, and first start since he was transferred to Machowsky.

David Flores rides Bedlam Bertie, who is making his fourth start of the winter meet.

"He comes out of the race of the meet," Machowsky said, referring to his seventh-place finish in the Gradeo3 Sir Beaufort on Dec. 26.

Sir Beaufort winner Kip Deville came back to win the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe; runner-up Awesome Gem won the Grade 2 San Fernando.

In the Crystal Water, Bedlam Bertie faces easier company.

"We're not running against any Kip Devilles," Machowsky said.

Bedlam Bertie is racing against the course profile, however, but if he slows down early, and finishes as strongly as he did in his most recent sprint, he can overcome the trend.

El Don, 7 for 26, finished only five lengths behind Lava Man last out Jan. 27 in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf. Super Strut won the Crystal Water one year ago; that was his most recent win. The 7-year-old has won 6 of 28. Epic Power won the Cal Cup Mile in October. Hockey the General seeks his first stakes win.