04/08/2004 12:00AM

Channing Way to defend home turf

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PHOENIX - Channing Way has shipped from Turf Paradise to Southern California a number of times to chase bigger game. Saturday's $40,000 Cactus Flower Handicap at Turf Paradise, however, sees a turning of the tables: This time it's Channing Way who is the hunted and highweight, whereas a couple of tough Southern Californians ship into town looking to bag a big one. The six-furlong event lured a field of eight.

Channing Way comes off a couple of disappointing outings. Trained by Dan Morgan, Channing Way shipped to Sunland for the Santa Teresa Handicap but faltered to sixth as the 5-2 favorite. She faced some of the big girls before that in Santa Anita's Grade 3 Las Flores Handicap. Channing Way won the Crystal Gail here Jan. 12, then followed with a big third in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita on Jan. 24.

Channing Way certainly figures to appreciate getting back to Turf Paradise, where she is a terrific 7 for 9.

She carries 122 pounds and will be ridden by Steve Gomez.

The two Californians come here with good credentials of their own. Princess V., now trained by Molly Pearson - the filly was with Neil French in Southern California - placed in a Grade 1 stakes while sprinting last year as a 3-year-old. After a summer and fall vacation, she won an allowance race in dazzling fashion at Golden Gate on Dec. 6, found a mile too much to handle in the Work the Crowd at Golden Gate on Jan. 3, then chased super filly Island Fashion in the Grade 1 Santa Monica on Jan. 25, ending up fifth. Princess V. has been freshened and is a huge threat on the class drop.

She carries 119 pounds and will be ridden by Scott Stevens.

Talk Me Again may not have the credentials of Princess V. but is scary, nonetheless. She was third in a third-level allowance sprint at Santa Anita on Jan. 15. Trained by Eric Kruljac, Talk Me Again comes into this seemingly primed and ready - she worked a dazzling three furlongs in 33.80 seconds here Tuesday.

She carries 118 pounds and will be ridden by Hoogie Drexler.

Another Southern Californian comes in by way of Minnesota. Prime Step handled herself well for a few years in the mid-claiming ranks in Southern California. She shipped to Canterbury in Minnesota last May and turned into a tiger, winning five of her six races there. She hasn't run since last August and has never run here, but, like Talk Me Again, she comes into this off some sizzling works and may be a new horse. She carries 120 pounds and will be ridden by Joel Campbell.