09/01/2001 12:00AM

'Desert' knows the drill


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Native Desert, an 8-year-old gelding with

17 wins and a $1.4 million bankroll, heads a field of five in the $100,000 California Turf Championship at Bay Meadows on Monday.

Native Desert carries high weight of 122 pounds for the mile turf race, which is restricted to California-breds.

Native Desert will be trying to win this stakes for the third time in four years. He won the race in 1998 and 2000, and was a close second in 1999.

But the race does not figure to be a stroll in the park for Native Desert. Spinelessjellyfish is also in the field, and those two have faced each other four times this year, with Spinelessjellyfish finishing in front of Native Desert twice.

The last time they met was in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile at Hollywood Park on May 28. Native Desert overcame traffic trouble to finish a close fourth in that race, while Spinelessjellyfish finished sixth.

They have both raced once since then, with Native Desert finishing second in the Grade 1 Eddie Read and Spinelessjellyfish finishing third in the restricted Wickerr Handicap.

Native Desert is trained by Juan Garcia, who claimed him out of a $32,000 maiden race at Santa Anita in 1996.

Spinelessjellyfish, who will carry 121 pounds, is trained by Jenine Sahadi. The others in the field are Flying Rudolph, 115; Hallo Bert, 115; Takin It Deep, 114; and The Candi Kid, 114.

The Candi Kid might have the best chance of upsetting Native Desert and Spinelessjellyfish. The Candi Kid, from the Jerry Hollendorfer stable, comes off two allowance wins.