03/26/2003 1:00AM

Bluesthestandard to get stakes test


ARCADIA, Calif. - Bluesthestandard, the winningest horse in Southern California last year, will make his stakes debut in Saturday's $200,000 Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita.

A winner of a remarkable 12 of 19 career starts, and seven races in 2002, the 6-year-old Bluesthestandard has trained so aggressively since winning an optional claiming race March 12 that owner Jeffrey Sengara paid a $4,000 supplemental fee last Sunday to make him eligible to the Potrero Grande.

"The horse made us change our plans," trainer Ted H. West said. "We were going to back off for a month. We figured he could use the rest, but he's too sharp right now."

Bluesthestandard, a gelding, was a $10,000 claimer at this time last year. He was claimed by Sengara for $50,000 Dec. 31, the fifth time he has been claimed. Bluesthestandard, a Georgia-bred, has won three times at this meet, including the optional claiming race at 1 1/16 miles March 12, the longest race of his career.

While that appeared to be a springboard to more distance races, Sengara and West have opted to cut back to 6 1/2 furlongs for the Potrero Grande.

The decision to pay the supplemental fee was made partly because of the absence of Aldebaran, Avanzado, and Captain Squire - all winners of sprint stakes at this meet. Avanzado and Captain Squire are racing in Dubai this weekend, and Aldebaran is awaiting another start in coming weeks.

Without them, Kona Gold, the winner of the Potrero Grande in 2000 and 2001, is the 121-pound topweight and a definite starter, according to trainer Bruce Headley.

The other probables are D'wildcat, Debonair Joe, FJ's Pace, Joey Franco, and Martel.

Crackup won't return until fall

Crackup, one of the top California-bred 2-year-olds of 2002, is out until the fall after undergoing surgery to have bone chips removed from his ankles, trainer Rafael Becerra said.

The injury was detected after Crackup's sixth-place finish in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields on March 8, his second loss of the year. He also finished fourth in the Santa Catalina Stakes at Santa Anita Jan. 18. In both races, he was found to have bled from the lungs.

"He bled pretty bad in the El Camino," Becerra said. "We X-rayed him and found the chips. We'll give him three or four months, whatever it takes. He deserves it."

Brancusi points for Blue Grass

Brancusi earned his way into the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland with a third-place finish in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita March 16.

A trip to the Kentucky Derby hinges on the results of the Blue Grass Stakes on April 12, trainer Patrick Biancone said.

Brancusi's progress so far has been a pleasant surprise for Biancone and owner Michael Tabor.

"We thought he'd be a horse for the summer, but he's come on quicker," Biancone said. "He's developing every day. We'll run in the Blue Grass, and if he runs a good race, we'll go to the Derby. If not, we'll wait a little bit."

Wednesday, Brancusi worked six furlongs in 1:12.60, one of the fastest recorded works at the distance that day. He is scheduled to leave Sunday for Kentucky.

Rhiana likely for Apple Blossom

Rhiana, third in the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap in February, is likely to pass Sunday's $75,000 Santa Lucia Handicap in favor of the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park April 5, trainer Dan Hendricks said.

Owned by John and Allegra Ernst, Rhiana has earned $90,200 since she was claimed for $40,000 last November at Hollywood Park.

"The owners realize they may not have a shot to do something like this again," Hendricks said of the Apple Blossom purse. "It's a short field, and I think we have a chance to run third."

The leading contenders for the Apple Blossom are Azeri, the reigning Horse of the Year, and major stakes winners Affluent and Take Charge Lady.

In the Santa Lucia Handicap, which is restricted to fillies and mares that have not won a first-place purse of $50,000 at a mile or over other than claiming or starter this year, Rhiana would be a leading contender against a field that will include defending champion Alexine and Printemps, a stakes winner in January.

Wooden Phone set to return

Wooden Phone, the winner of the 2002 San Pasqual Handicap, will return from a one-year layoff in the $350,000 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct April 12. Baffert is already sending During to the $750,000 Wood Memorial the same day.

Baffert has another veteran preparing for a comeback in General Challenge, the 7-year-old who won the 1999 Pacific Classic and 2000 Santa Anita Handicap. General Challenge has not started since the summer of 2000 because of a variety of setbacks.

Wednesday, General Challenge worked five furlongs from the gate in 59.40 seconds. Baffert said General Challenge will remain in Southern California.

- Crafty C.T., second in the San Carlos Handicap March 2, breezed five furlongs in 58.20 seconds Wednesday, the fastest of 56 works at the distance. Crafty C.T. is being pointed for the Carter Handicap.