10/31/2002 12:00AM

Crackup's obstacles are no joke


ARCADIA, Calif. - No one was laughing when Crackup got beat. Favored at 2-1 in a Cal-bred sprint in his last start, the 2-year-old son of Distorted Humor lost position early, had only one horse beaten after a quarter-mile, and was left with too much to do.

Crackup finished third, beaten a length. After the race, jockey Tyler Baze offered no alibi to trainer Rafael Becerra. "He admitted it; he said he screwed up," Becerra said.

All will be forgiven Saturday if Baze and Crackup win the $125,000 California Cup Juvenile (race 3), a 1 1/16-mile race in which Crackup tries to stretch his speed two turns. His rivals include Excessive Barb, who won the stakes in which Crackup was unlucky; dropper Oberwald; stakes-placed runners Martinblestme and Hair Jordan; and longshots Seemore Seemore, Global Games, and Bold N Broke.

Crackup has speed, and Becerra said Baze could have used it to establish position in the Cavonnier Stakes, instead of allowing him to drop well off the pace.

"He's got natural speed, and he's got the perfect post [Saturday]," Becerra said. "He can be right there with them."

In planning strategy for the Juvenile, Becerra and Baze agree Crackup will be most effective Saturday if he is near the lead.

Crackup is owned by Sunland Park operator Stan Fulton, for whom Becerra trains five 2-year-olds. Crackup is the most advanced, having scored a runaway maiden win in his second start, followed by the unlucky third in the Cavonnier. A $50,000 purchase at a Barretts 2-year-old sale, Crackup is a horse, Becerra said, for whom two turns should be no problem.

"Every time I've worked him, he's given a good kick at the end," Becerra said. "The distance I don't think will be a problem, I feel real good about it."

Still, the Juvenile is no easy race, and Crackup faces a formidable rival in Excessive Barb. It was Excessive Barb who seized opportunity and won the seven-furlong Cavonnier by a length. A colt by In Excess, Excessive Barb has trained super since his last race for trainer Craig Lewis, who said, "If he he gets two turns, he'll be very tough."

Excessive Barb was produced by My Sweet Barbara, an allowance-class mare who ran long in the mid-1990's. The colt's recent workouts suggest a mile and a sixteenth is within reach. Excessive Barb was claimed out of his first start for $62,500 by owner Rubin Brown, and already has earned $61,140 for his new connections. Kent Desormeaux will ride.

While Crackup and Excessive Barb are the obvious choices, the fact both are trying two turns for the first time suggests potential chaos. Even with only eight starters, there are potential longshots, including Bold N Broke.

A homebred gelding by Ide, Bold N Broke flipped his palate finishing eighth in the Cavonnier. He was a 26-1 outsider that day, and the effort apparently eliminated him from consideration for the Cal Cup Juvenile.

"I wasn't going to run him [in the Juvenile], but he came back and trained awesome," said trainer Cliff Sise, who owns Bold N Broke with Tony Feng and Norman Cheng. "He's training great, he went 59.60 [seconds] as easy as he can go. He was guzzled, and he's got a stride that says he'll go long."

Sise said Bold N Broke will wear a figure-eight bridle to prevent him flipping his palate again.

Oberwald is another potential upsetter. He burst to prominence in last spring by winning a fast maiden race, followed by a win in the Haggin Stakes at Hollywood Park before going off form. Trainer Mike Harrington suspects the 2-year-old's undescended testicles were causing discomfort, so he was gelded before his Oct. 5 comeback.

Racing against the best 2-year-olds in California in the Grade 2 Norfolk, Oberwald finished last of seven. He needed the race, shows a pair of mile works since, drops in class, and fits if he runs back to his summer form.

Martinblestme also has run races that give him a shot. A son of Benchmark, Martinblestme is named for a Catholic priest who is friend of owner-breeders Terry and Dawn Henn. Martinblestme, 2-for-5, is trained by Bob Baffert.