12/23/2002 12:00AM

Cal-bred 3-year-olds fit in open company

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ARCADIA, Calif. - The talent pool of 3-year-olds based this winter at Santa Anita is enhanced by an unusually large group of well-regarded California-breds, some of whom, including the speedy D's Bertrando, are competing in the $125,000 California Breeders' Champion Stakes on opening day Thursday.

There are myriad opportunities for Cal-breds to race in their own division all winter at Santa Anita, but several from the current crop seem poised to make an impact against open company. Stakes winners such as Crackup and Siberland already have proven themselves a cut above the norm, and there are others ready to join them.

D's Bertrando is the most exciting newcomer to Southern California on the opening-day card. An odds-on favorite in both his starts, D's Bertrando crushed a maiden field by 13 lengths, earning a gaudy 105 Beyer Speed Figure, when winning his second start on Nov. 9 at Golden Gate Fields after a troubled debut Oct. 19 at Bay Meadows. Both races were at six furlongs.

"He was drawn inside in his first race, he broke poorly, he kind of rushed up, and then a horse outside him ricocheted off him at the half-mile and he sucked back to last, then he came with a big charge late," his trainer, Jeff Bonde, said Monday morning at Santa Anita. "He came back in his next start and ran huge."

Bonde had high hopes for D's Bertrando before his debut. "He trained like a million dollars," he said.

Bonde has similar hopes that D's Bertrando will stretch out successfully. Thursday's race is at seven furlongs, and if D's Bertrando runs well, his next start will be going two turns. "I believe he can stretch out," Bonde said. "He's a big, long-striding horse."

One of his rivals on Thursday, Unfurl the Flag - another son of Bertrando - has sprinted well and acts like a runner who will do well with more distance. His dam is by Storm Cat.

The leaders of the Cal-bred division are Crackup and Siberland, both of whom are multiple stakes winners.

Crackup, a Distorted Humor colt whom Rafael Becerra trains for Stan Fulton, already has won stakes races going two turns. He captured the California Cup Juvenile Nov. 3, then shipped to Sam Houston Race Park and won the Great State Challenge Juvenile this month. Becerra said Crackup is being pointed for the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Dash at seven furlongs on Jan. 25 at Gulfstream Park.

Siberland returned Saturday and won the Arizona Juvenile Stakes at Turf Paradise, his first start since a dazzling victory in the I'm Smokin Stakes at Del Mar. Both those races were sprints, but this son of Siberian Summer has a running style and pedigree that seem well suited to distance racing.

The wickedly fast Only the Best, who won the Sunny Slope Stakes at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, will make his next start in the six-furlong San Miguel Stakes on Jan. 12.

Among fillies, the division leader is Summer Wind Dancer, the winner of the California Cup Juvenile Fillies. Trainer Jenine Sahadi said Summer Wind Dancer would make her next start in the Sunshine Millions Oaks at seven furlongs on Jan. 25 at Santa Anita. Like Siberland, Summer Wind Dancer is by Siberian Summer.

Humorous Lady, a Distorted Humor filly who won stakes at Del Mar and Belmont Park this year, makes her first start since the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in Friday's $125,000 California Breeders' Champion Stakes (Filly Division).

Golden K K, a narrow loser to Humorous Lady at Del Mar, will return this meet. She chipped a knee at Del Mar and underwent surgery.