11/17/2005 12:00AM

Chinese Dragon lays over stakes field

Benoit & Associates
Chinese Dragon, shown winning the La Puente Stakes at Santa Anita, is the overwhelming favorite in the Paradise Valley Handicap.

The connections of the local 3-year-olds who entered Saturday's $40,000 Paradise Valley Handicap at Turf Paradise got a rude surprise when they found out the Southern California 3-year-old Chinese Dragon was in the race.

Owned by Mike Carter and trained by Bob Hess Jr., the stakes-winning Chinese Dragon will be an overwhelming favorite against nine others in Saturday's 7 1/2-furlong turf event.

Chinese Dragon's presence here is a result of the cancellation of turf racing at Hollywood Park this winter. Last Saturday's Chandler Handicap was captured by Heavenly Ransom, also a Southern California invader.

Despite a hefty assignment of 127 pounds, Chinese Dragon would appear to hold all the aces in the Paradise Valley. A son of Stravinsky, Chinese Dragon began his career in Ireland, winning his maiden in August 2004. He turned heads in his U.S. debut at Santa Anita, rallying smartly to win an allowance race there. He then used that same late power to win the Pasadena and La Puente stakes, both at Santa Anita in the spring. He powered home to win the Alcatraz at Golden Gate, his fifth straight victory. He suffered a splint bone injury after that May 15 race and hasn't run since.

Hess said Saturday's race is a prep for the Sir Beaufort, a one-mile turf stakes on Dec. 26 at Santa Anita. Jose Valdivia Jr. has the call.

Should Chinese Dragon not fire, Western Act may be the prime beneficiary. Owned and trained by Cory Kellogg, Western Act last ran in June, finishing fifth in a dirt stakes at Albuquerque. Last spring he won the Da Hoss and was second in the Tempe Handicap, both on this turf course at a mile. He carries second highweight of 119 pounds and jockey Carl Williams.

Another horse of interest is Desert Prospector, fifth in the Saguaro on the dirt behind the hot Scottsbluff here Oct. 29. That was his first start in nearly seven months, and he has had a good work since.

The only time Desert Prospector raced on the turf, he won the April 5 Arizona Stallion at the Paradise Valley distance in a romp. Scott Stevens rides at 117 pounds.