04/03/2003 12:00AM

Kela need only repeat his last in San Bernardino


ARCADIA, Calif. - Trainer Larry Barrera is not lacking in confidence regarding Kela's chances in Saturday's $150,000 San Bernardino Handicap at Santa Anita.

Kela showed Barrera what he wanted to see in the Tokyo City Handicap on March 8, rallying from seventh and scoring a narrow win. A repeat would be good enough, Barrera insists.

"I don't think he has to improve," Barrera said. "If he runs the same race, I think the race is his. He's coming out of his skin."

Kela has shown erratic form in the last year, but has worked well since his recent win.

Last September, Kela ran second to Congaree in the Grade 2 Del Mar Breeders' Cup Mile, which was followed by losses in the Goodwood and San Pasqual handicaps. Kela was transferred from Eduardo Inda to Barrera by owners Aaron and Marie Jones earlier this year and won his first start for Barrera in the Tokyo City.

The Grade 2 San Bernardino is an ideal race for Kela to try and win a graded stakes. The field has not drawn any top finishers from the meeting's first three major stakes for the division - the San Pasqual, San Antonio, and Santa Anita handicaps.

"I thought the race might come up tougher than it did," Barrera said.

The 119-pound highweight is Wooden Phone, the winner of the 2001 Strub Stakes and 2002 San Pasqual Handicap who has not started in 15 months because of a injury. Trained by Bob Baffert, the 6-year-old Wooden Phone has run well after a layoff in the past.

Western Pride makes his first start in 11 months. The winner of the San Fernando and the runner-up in the Santa Anita Handicap last year, Western Pride has been entered for three other stakes in the last five weeks, but has scratched each time.

Aside from Kela, the only other member of the eight-horse field coming off a win is Total Impact, who won an optional claiming race on March 22. Trained by Laura de Seroux, Total Impact was second in the $2 million UAE Derby in Dubai in 2002 but has made only four subsequent starts.

Total Impact can race close to the pace. He impressed de Seroux with his one-length victory over 1 1/16 miles on March 22.

"Looking at my horse and how he does, he was just kind of playing with them," she said. "That last race gave me hope that he's approaching what I think he can be.

"I've used the last couple of races to get him 100 percent race fit. He seems to thrive from it."