07/09/2003 11:00PM

Full Moon Madness is back


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - After a yearlong layoff, Full Moon Madness returns in Saturday's $75,000 Robert Kerlan Memorial Handicap at Hollywood Park, trying to protect a three-race winning streak in a turf sprint that caters to his strength.

Since winning the Answer Do Stakes for California-breds on July 13, 2002, Full Moon Madness has stayed with trainer Ruben Cardenas at the racetrack. An 8-year-old, Full Moon Madness was previously trained by Robert Marshall, who still works closely with Cardenas on the gelding's training.

"We've been working together for 10 years," Cardenas said. "We work together on this horse."

The two men have overseen a remarkable career for Full Moon Madness, who has won 14 of 34 starts and $922,705 while often battling minor injuries. Since the beginning of 2001, Full Moon Madness has made just six starts.

"I never sent him to the farm," Cardenas said of Full Moon Madness's latest layoff. "He had bad feet and was sore behind."

Cardenas does not expect the Kerlan Handicap to be the start of a lengthy campaign. "He'll run three or four times and I'll give him time off," he said.

Jose Valdivia Jr. has the ride on Full Moon Madness in the Kerlan, run over 5 1/2 furlongs on turf. His five opponents include another Cardenas trainee, De Valmont, as well as Ecstatic, No Armistice, Rocky Bar, and Sea to See.

De Valmont won a $40,000 claimer for turf sprinters on June 21 and is a front-runner. Ecstatic is a stalker who finished a troubled second in a turf sprint June 4.

No Armistice, a 6-year-old making his turf debut, has not started since finishing third in the El Conejo Handicap at Santa Anita in January.

Rocky Bar and Sea to See have opposite styles. Rocky Bar is a front-runner who finished third in the Grade 3 San Simeon Handicap at Santa Anita. Sea to See ran second in a turf sprint on June 27 and won the Khaled Stakes for California-breds on April 26.

With pace expected from De Valmont and Rocky Bar, Cardenas is confident regarding Full Moon Madness's chances. "I think he can win the race," Cardenas said. "It could set up for Full Moon Madness."

Sea to See is also a closer and would benefit from a speed duel. Claimed for $62,500 last February, he was beaten only a length by stablemate Menacing Dennis in a recent optional claimer.

"If he repeats what he did against allowance horses, that would be a big effort," trainer Doug O'Neill said. "He ran dynamite."