11/08/2001 12:00AM

California shipper in tough

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PHOENIX - Trainer Sean McCarthy probably figured that by shipping Bel Serenata to Turf Paradise things would be easy, since he was getting away from the graded stakes-caliber female turf runners in Southern California.

But as a full field of 10 gets ready for Saturday's $30,000 Chandler Handicap, McCarthy may find things don't always go according to plan. The 7 1/2-furlong turf race for 3-year-old fillies doesn't have Reine de Romance or Cindy's Hero to worry about, but the competition is stiff and figures to test Bel Serenata to the fullest.

There is no doubt, however, that Bel Serenata is the horse to beat. That's because she is proven on turf, proven shipping away from her Southern California base, and, save for a couple of efforts against graded stakes foes, her record is solid.

After graduating at Bay Meadows in June she shipped all the way to Woodbine and just missed winning a restricted turf sprint stakes. She returned to Southern California, but found the Grade 2 San Clemente at Del Mar too tough. She rebounded smartly with an impressive nonwinners-other-than win at Bay Meadows, before again facing big guns such as Cindy's Hero and Gabriellina Giof in Santa Anita's Harold Ramser.

She leaves from post No. 2 under Scott Stevens as the second highweight at 120 pounds.

The highweight, Sassy Chimes, is also a shipper. She has been tremendous, traveling around the Northwest and Southwest, winning 8 of 10 races for owner/trainer William Smith.

She has won from 4 1/2 furlongs to a mile, and has wins at Emerald, Sunray Park, Assiniboia, and Albuquerque. None of her races, however, has been on the turf.

She is by Chimes Band, which doesn't necessarily move her up on turf, but at least indicates she should handle it. Her damsire, Sassafras, is turf bred.

She carries 121 pounds with jockey Seth Martinez, leaving from post 5.

Another invader, but one who is proven on turf, is Madison Grace. She comes into this off a good second in the San Antonio Oaks on the turf at Retama. She is 3 for 11 on turf, so the surface isn't an issue. She also has raced well on three different courses, so this unfamiliar course should be no problem.

She carries 120 pounds and jockey Glen Corbett, and leaves from post 8.

There are other threats in the field. Moonlit Maddie is a dual stakes winner on this turf course, winning the Scottsdale and Angi Go here in the spring. Sunset Point is winless in two turf tries, but she comes off two romping wins sprinting on dirt here. And Brooklyn Road is on the rise. She has yet to try turf, but she just won a laugher sprinting on the main track here and has won routing before. If she handles the grass, she can be scary.

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