10/08/2003 11:00PM

Dan's Groovy the now horse

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PHOENIX - What counts more, current form or past class?

That's the question Saturday's Caballas del Sol Handicap, the six-furlong feature at Turf Paradise, poses for handicappers.

The razor-sharp Dan's Groovy takes on several runners with back class, including Top Hit, Bristolville, Komax, and NoCal Bread, in a field of nine. Toss in Kolinor, who had a smart prep race; Duddly Doo Run, runner-up in the Bienvenidos here opening week; and sharp Canterbury shipper Montana Rush, and you have the makings of one tough race.

Dan's Groovy comes off a 6 1/2-length win against $30,000 optional claimers. Among his victims that day was Kolinor. Prior to that, Dan's Groovy won a $12,500 claimer at Sacramento. While he has spent most of his time in recent months facing mid-range claimers, he's more than capable of stepping up to this level.

Stablemates Top Hit and Komax each carry high weight of 120 pounds. Top Hit hasn't raced since Sept. 7, 2002, when he finished third in the Pirate's Bounty at Del Mar, only 2 1/4 lengths behind Avanzado, recent winner of the Grade 1 Ancient Title at Santa Anita. Still, the layoff is significant and he is just 1 for 4 going six furlongs.

Komax hasn't raced since January. Strong Grade 2 and Grade 3 efforts in races such as the Longacres Mile, Bing Crosby, and Los Angeles Handicap show his quality, and he's 4 for 6 at Turf Paradise.

Bristolville, who hasn't run since May 2002, may be best in turf routes, but he's 2 for 3 at this distance and over this track.

Everybody into the pool

Because of the hot weather in Arizona, it seems everyone has a swimming pool. Even the baseball stadium has one. Well, now the horses at Turf Paradise have one, too.

Turf Paradise's new oval-shaped pool is intended to help with horses stay fit, which management hopes will translate into more ready-to-run horses and thus bigger fields.

The track completed the 30- by 60-foot pool near the end of the last live meet. The $125,000 project, the idea of owner Jerry Simms and general manager Randy Fozzard, contains 140,000 gallons of water. It remained open this summer when the Arizona live racing scene moved north to Yavapai.

"In addition to the therapeutic benefit, horses can continue to train while they heal from a minor ailment," said Fozzard. "Pool therapy should have a positive effect on our field size."

Trainer Don Mills already has his horses on a track-pool regimen.

"This is a long meet and horses get track sour," said Mills, who has been training horses for more than 18 years. "I balance my horses training with the pool and track. What I've noticed is that horses who are track-weary come back with fresher attitudes after training in the pool."

From a veterinarian's point of view, the pool holds major benefits.

"Pool therapy allows horses to maintain cardiovascular fitness by delivering oxygen to their muscle systems while avoiding the concussion and vibration of track training," said 25-year track veterinarian Dr. Larry Metheney. "Horses that do not have perfect conformation distribute the jarring of track training unevenly throughout their bodies, causing injuries. Pool therapy provides the benefits without the downside."