09/29/2005 12:00AM

Dee Dee's Diner leads army of invaders


PHOENIX - It's been a recurring theme the past few seasons - put up some decent money and in come the invaders. Southern California shipper Dee Dee's Diner will try to raid the pot at Turf Paradise as the favorite in Saturday's $40,000 City of Phoenix Handicap. The six-furlong event for fillies and mares is the first stakes of the meet, which runs through May 21, and it has lured a field of seven.

Dee Dee's Diner, from the Kevin Eikleberry barn, isn't just another Southern California horse. The 5-year-old mare, owned by G. Chris Coleman, has won 8 of 24 starts for nearly $350,000. She's won 3 of her last 5, including the Valkyr at Hollywood Park on July 16. After that win she was third in the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo at Del Mar, and comes into this off a second in the Pio Pico at Fairplex on Sept. 16. That day, Dee Dee's Diner dueled early as the 3-5 favorite, got the lead on the turn, and couldn't fend off Two to Get Ready, who won by a head.

Dee Dee's Diner is the 126-pound highweight and will be ridden by last year's leading rider here, Wilson Dieguez.

Painless, the second highweight at 121 pounds, comes off a super Yavapai meet for the Superstition Ranch and 12 Gates Racing. A 4-year-old filly, Painless won her last three races, all at Yavapai, including the Willow Lake Handicap and the First Snow. Trained by Sarina Obergfell, Painless will be ridden by Miguel Hernandez.

Dee Dee's Diner isn't the only shipper with designs on the City of Phoenix. In fact, her owner and trainer, Coleman and Eikleberry, appear to have this race surrounded as they also bring Kathryns Birthday and Lyndee's Pearl.

Kathryns Birthday did some good things in California, though she is not nearly as accomplished as her stablemate. She comes off a fifth-place finish in the Fair Queen Handicap at Albuquerque and boasts plenty of speed.

Lyndee's Pearl comes off a runner-up effort against starter allowance foes at Fairplex on Sept. 16.

Miss Freedom returns to the site of three of her five career wins after a successful meet at Arapahoe this summer. After a near-miss against claimers there July 10, she rattled off two straight big wins, albeit against lesser opponents than she faces here. Danny Hunsaker trains.

Yet another shipper, Katy Smiles, deserves respect as well. Katy Smiles has won 5 of her last 7, including the Dean Kutz at Canterbury on Aug. 13. She won here in March, the only other time she's raced at this track. David Van Winkle trains for owner Richard Galyen.