04/18/2007 11:00PM

Back to dirt for La Tormenta


PHOENIX – La Tormenta rattled off four straight turf sprint wins in Southern California before finding stakes company at Santa Anita a bit too tough. That shouldn't be the case Saturday at Turf Paradise, when La Tormenta goes in the $45,000 Cactus Flower Handicap, a six-furlong main-track event for fillies and mares that drew a field of eight.

La Tormenta, trained by Peter Miller, has raced solely on turf the past year or so, but she has proven main-track ability. In her last dirt race she went wire-to-wire for an impressive four-length maiden win at the pre-synthetic Hollywood Park. She was off for nine months and came back with those four straight turf wins.

In her last race, the Irish O'Brien on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita March 17, La Tormenta dueled early with the very fast River's Prayer, but paid the price and faltered to sixth. River's Prayer, meanwhile, won the Irish O'Brien and came right back to win the Grade 3 Las Cienegas at Santa Anita last week.

Jason Lumpkins rides La Tormenta, the likely favorite, at 122 pounds. La Tormenta was also entered in the Monterey Handicap Saturday at Bay Meadows.

Perhaps her main opponent is Shesa Private I, who has been a solid competitor in sprint stakes throughout the Southwest the past couple seasons. Shesa Private I boasts stakes wins at Albuquerque and Ruidoso the past couple seasons and comes here off a strong run in her first start since last October. Shesa Private I chased the pace in the April 2 Excess Energy here and stayed on well to be second. Any improvement off that run makes her dangerous. Trainer Bart Hone has named Scott Stevens rides at 118 pounds.

Sweet Ambition, also trained by Miller, hasn't won since very early in 2006 but comes off a solid third in a tough sprint at Bay Meadows.

Spice Thief comes off a series of good sprints here. She romped by 4 3/4 lengths in an optional claimer here Feb. 6 and then dueled for the lead and stayed on well to be third in the Valid Lead here Feb. 25.