07/24/2006 12:00AM

Ex-surgeon aims for Graduation win


DEL MAR, Calif. - You can make good money as a foot and ankle surgeon, but it can't provide the thrills of racing. That's why Bart Edwards followed his muse. He left his medical practice 3 1/2 years ago to pursue a life-long love of the track. On Wednesday, Edwards will try to win the $125,000 Graduation Stakes at Del Mar with Twin Fin, a colt he both owns and trains.

Twin Fin beat California-bred maidens at Hollywood Park on June 18, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 83 while recording an 18-1 surprise. He will not be anywhere near that price on Wednesday, when he takes on five rivals in the Graduation.

Eight were entered in the Graduation, a 5 1/2-furlong race for Cal-breds, but both Loyal Navigator and Uartaphoneme were scratched on Monday in order to go instead in a starter allowance race on Thursday.

The scratches place Twin Fin on the rail. He had the outside post of nine in his debut.

"I thought he could be a good horse, but you never know until they run," Edwards said Monday morning from his barn at Santa Anita. "He worked like he might need more distance. I didn't know he'd have that kind of speed. The speed he showed was a pleasant surprise."

Edwards, 50, is a native of Manhattan Beach who was a foot and ankle surgeon in the San Francisco Bay Area for years. Through a mutual friend who knew trainer Jack Van Berg, Edwards went to work for Van Berg, progressing from a groom to an assistant trainer before going out on his own.

Edwards acquired Twin Fin privately as a yearling last October. He said he has five other horses in his care, and has part ownership in several of them.

River Echo is the only horse in the race who has yet to win, but he figures to be one of the main contenders. He finished second in his debut in a fast maiden race against open company.

"Yea, we've taken it real easy with him so far, running him against open company and now in a stakes," his trainer, Marty Jones, said jokingly Monday morning. "He seems like he's got a good mind."

One reason River Echo ran in an open race, rather than against Cal-breds, in his debut is because owner John Harris also had Spot the Diplomat ready to run at Hollywood Park around the same time. River Echo raced on July 2. Six days later, Spot the Diplomat defeated Cal-bred maidens at Hollywood.

"Mr. Harris had the other colt, and understandably wanted to keep them apart," Jones said.

They are not apart on Wednesday, though, not with stakes money on the line.

Hot Rod dips back into a Cal-bred race after facing EZ Warrior in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship last time out.