03/21/2003 1:00AM

Usual gang rounded up for Crystal Water


ARCADIA, Calif. - There has been little change among the cast of top California-bred turf milers in recent years.

In Sunday's $100,000 Crystal Water Handicap at Santa Anita, the two horses who have won the last three runnings - Hugh Hefner and Road to Slew - are part of an eight-horse field that includes last year's runner-up, Spinelessjellyfish, and the third-place finisher of 2001, Lilys Lad.

The only major player missing is Native Desert, 10, who is nearing a comeback following an injury last summer.

Despite the familiar names, the Crystal Water at a mile on turf is wide open. All eight of the entrants are coming off losses. The 6-year-olds Hugh Hefner and Lily's Lad have not started since last April, while Road to Slew, 8, and Yougottawanna, 4, have had only one start since last spring.

Spinelessjellyfish is making his fourth start of the meeting and could be favored. The 7-year-old Spinelessjellyfish won the Sensational Star Handicap over about 6 1/2 furlongs on turf in early January, but has lost his last two starts. Trained by Jenine Sahadi, Spinelessjellyfish finished a troubled sixth in the Sunshine Millions Turf on Jan. 25 and fifth in the Reb's Policy Handicap on the hillside turf course on Feb. 21.

"He didn't have a good trip in that race," Sahadi said of the Reb's Policy. "People can lose faith in him, but this is a good spot for him."

A winner of 10 of 36 starts and $819,605, Spinelessjellyfish has alternated between California-bred stakes and races against open company. He was only beaten a nose in the 2002 Crystal Water Handicap by Hugh Hefner.

Mike Smith rides Spinelessjellyfish for the first time, taking over from Julie Krone, who is out with a back injury.

"He's a funny horse to ride," Sahadi said. "He will look at things. He's temperamental. Some days he works quick and other times it's like he doesn't care."

Despite the layoffs, Hugh Hefner and Lily's Lad could be dangerous. In 2000, Hugh Hefner returned from a five-month layoff to run a game second in the La Puente Stakes.

Lily's Lad finished behind Hugh Hefner twice last year, running fifth in the Crystal Water and seventh in the Khaled Stakes. Lily's Lad has not won in 21 months, dating back to an allowance race at Hollywood Park in June 2001.

Yougottawanna is a winner over this course and distance, capturing the restricted Pinjara Stakes in October 2001. A 4-year-old, he won the El Camino Real Derby last year, but was sidelined shortly after that start. In one start this year, he finished seventh in the minor San Carlos Handicap at Golden Gate Fields on March 1.

Road to Slew, who won the Crystal Water in 2000 and 2001, has made only two starts in two years. In his lone start of 2003, he was third in a $62,500 claimer on March 13.

"He was out with different little injuries," trainer Craig Dollase said. "For an 8-year-old, he's tough."

Logician may try Santa Anita Derby

Logician, the California-bred who was fourth in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes on March 16, is being considered for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 5, Dollase said.

Owned by Paul Reddam, Logician has one victory in six starts, a maiden race over a mile at Santa Anita on Jan 12. He later finished third in an allowance race for California-breds and was beaten two lengths by Buddy Gil in the San Felipe.

Sent off at 86-1 in the San Felipe, Logician was second on the backstretch and remained a factor until deep stretch.

"We'll take a real strong look at the Santa Anita Derby," Dollase said. "I think a mile and an eighth will suit this horse. He's an improving 3-year old and at this time of year that's nice to have."

Logician is by Tabasco Cat, who stands in Kentucky. Logician is registered as a California-bred because his dam, Arbela, was bred back to a California-based stallion after foaling Logician.

Reddam paid $520,000 for Logician at the 2002 Keeneland 2-year-olds in-training sale.