08/03/2007 11:00PM

Maddens Call makes season debut

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SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Maddens Call has never disappointed trainer Duane Offield.

Now 3, Maddens Call ran twice as a 2-year-old, finishing third in his debut and winning his second start, both in $32,000 maiden claimers.

On Monday's closing day of Wine Country Racing at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Maddens Call will make his first start in 9 1/2 months, facing seven rivals in a $40,000 starter allowance race at five furlongs on the turf.

"We want to try grass, and five-eighths isn't going to hurt," Offield said.

Maddens Call will meet older rivals in his comeback, but it is fellow 3-year-old Crayon Red who may be the one to beat.

Crayon Red won his maiden at five furlongs on the turf May 11 at Golden Gate Fields. He suffered perhaps the toughest defeat in the 18 days of racing here a week ago, losing by a nose to Aggressive in one of the narrowest head bobs caught this year by any photo finish camera in Northern California.

Crayon Red's loss came in an open $32,000 claimer in his first race for a tag. Monday's race, limited to maiden winners, is actually easier.

Meanwhile, Offield this Maddens Call will be a major factor.

"He was always kind of precocious," Offield said. "He's trained forwardly to this."

Maddens Call has had eight works leading up to his comeback, including a three-furlong, 36.60-second, best-of-25 bullet on June 17. That work showed Offield that Maddens Call's speed is still there, and he has worked more on conditioning since then.

Grass is a question mark, but Maddens Call's sire, Game Plan, has produced nine turf debut winners from 66 starters, a solid 13.6 percent.

Offield generally enjoys good success on the turf, showing an $11.87 return on investment with first-timers on the turf and profits on both the dirt-to-turf switch and turf racing over all.

Maddens Call "had some issues" following his maiden victory last Oct. 15, Offield said. He wouldn't qualify them as major, but did say were "more than minor."

Because Maddens Call had shown ability in his two starts, Offield and long-time owner Charles Galea were in no rush to bring him back. Offield expects him to run better than he did in his third-place finish in his debut last Sept. 24.

"He wasn't ready to run the first time I ran him," Offield said. "I shouldn't have run him that day, but it was a short field so we took a chance." Maddens Call ran credibly, and Offield said, "The second race showed what he can really do."

Now he just needs to do it again, off a layoff.