11/09/2006 12:00AM

Chief Cocca eyes upset


Florida Keys is the most accomplished horse in Saturday's $40,000 Walter R. Cluer Memorial at Turf Paradise, but he hasn't been in the best form of late and hasn't won since May. Itstufftobegood comes off a nice win on the main track here and now moves to turf, which may not be his best surface.

So, Chief Cocca, who has blossomed in recent months for trainer Eric Kruljac, may be ready to play spoiler in the 7 1/2-furlong grass event, which is named for the track's founder and lured a field eight.

Chief Cocca's career began in Southern California and didn't seem to be going anywhere there. A dull February 2005 debut was followed by a 51-week layoff, and his form after that, through the spring and early summer of this year, wasn't any great shakes. But he suddenly perked up with a game maiden win sprinting on the dirt at Del Mar Aug. 27. Kruljac brought him back in a turf sprint at Oak Tree at Santa Anita, and Chief Cocca went wire to wire, edging away late.

He faces tougher opponents and a longer trip in the Cluer, but he has shown some route ability. His speed and strong form may help him carry the day. Joel Campbell rides.

Florida Keys is certainly the horse to beat. A tough veteran, he has had ample success in Southern California, though he comes here off five straight modest races there this summer, on turf and dirt. A bullet six-furlong work at Turf Paradise in 1:13.20 on Nov. 4 hints Florida Keys may be ready to get back to his best. Top trainer Troy Bainum has employed Jocelyn Kenny for the ride.

Itstufftobegood has won 3 of his last 4, including an allowance race at a mile on the dirt here Oct. 24. Trained by Neil Knapp, Itstufftobegood has posted 13 wins in 26 career starts, although he is just 1 for 7 on the turf. At least that one turf win did come on this turf course. Leslie Mawing rides.

Alottadar, trained by Bart Hone, comes off a strong allowance win at Turf Paradise course at this distance Oct. 23, and may be coming back to his best form.