02/17/2011 3:03PM

Chaplain, Point Attended too sharp to ignore in Phoenix Gold Cup


PHOENIX – Saturday’s $75,000 Phoenix Gold Cup, the marquee event of the Turf Paradise meet, has the makings of a classic race. Among the 13 entered for the six-furlong event are last year’s one-two finishers Ez Dreamer and Goin’ Dancin, current top local sprinters Chaplain and Point Attended, Grade 1-tested Southern Californian New Bay, Northern California stakes winner Our Minesweeper, New Mexico hotshot Wiredfortwotwenty, Midwest sharpie Stephengotthisstar, and the world-record holder for the distance, Twin Sparks.

Also on the Saturday program, to whet the appetite, are the $25,000 Turf Paradise Handicap and $25,000 Sun City Handicap.

Normally you would expect last year’s one-two finishers, Ez Dreamer and Goin’ Dancin, to contend for favoritism but neither comes here in top form. Last year’s Phoenix Gold Cup win was the only notch in the belt for 2010 for Ez Dreamer who has struggled since. He faded to 10th in the Grade 3 Phoenix at Keeneland on Oct. 8, then was freshened but gave way badly to be eased in a grass sprint at Santa Anita on Feb. 4. Trainer Kory Owens is likely hoping a return to this track, where his runner is 5 for 8, can snap him back to life. Goin’ Dancin, meanwhile, likewise has struggled since, finishing sixth at Finger Lakes last June 12, fifth at Presque Isle Downs last July, and then, after a long layoff, finishing sixth behind many of Saturday’s foes in the Swift here Jan. 22.

Favoritism may fall to one of the two sharp local sprinters: Chaplain and Point Attended. Both adore this place – Chaplain, trained by Robertino Diodoro, is not only 5 for 6 on this track, but has been freshened since an explosive 4 1/2-length win in the Caballos del Sol here Dec. 4. Among his victims that day was All Saint in third. All Saint came back to impressively win the Hank Mills Sr. and Cotton Fitzsimmons handicaps in his next two starts and is one of the favorites in Saturday’s Turf Paradise Handicap.

Point Attended, meanwhile, is a brilliant 5 for 5 on this track. Also trained by Diodoro, he drew off to easily win the Swift here Jan. 22 by 3 1/2 lengths.

A potential spoiler is Southern California raider New Bay. He hasn’t run since finishing seventh in the Grade 1 Ancient Title at Oak Tree at Hollywood Park on Oct. 9 but he is a quality horse and has been working in tremendous fashion at Santa Anita – 45.80 seconds on Feb. 11, a bullet 56.60 Feb. 3, a bullet 1:10.80 on Jan. 27, and a bullet 58.00 on Jan. 20.

Twin Sparks hasn’t been as sharp since his dazzling display here more than a year ago but showed signs of life when third to Point Attended in the Swift. Wirefortwotwenty comes off two straight wins at Sunland Park, including taking the Budweiser on Feb. 5, and Stephengotthisstar won five straight sprints at Remington and Sunland before finishing second at Sunland when trying a mile Jan. 30.

◗ The red-hot All Saint leads a field of 10 in the Turf Paradise Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on turf. He used his speed to lead all the way in the Hank Mills Sr. on dirt Dec. 18 and in the Cotton Fitzsimmons on grass Jan. 15. He does have to deal with other speed here. Otto Von Voom, One Call, and Fox in the House are major late threats.

◗ Markmelauras is back to defend her title in the Sun City Handicap at a mile on the grass. The 5-year-old Markmelauras posted a 33-1 upset in this race last year. After more than five months off, she came back to easily win a grass sprint here Jan. 3 which sets her up well for this. Table Mesa, second in this last year, continues her strong form, including being placed in four stakes this meet, and may well go favored.