05/03/2007 11:00PM

Fitz Flag invades on closing day


PHOENIX - The Turf Paradise meet ends Sunday with the traditional closing-day feature, the $50,000 Hasta La Vista Handicap. The 1 7/8-mile turf marathon goes as the ninth race on the card, the final race of the meet, with a field of 12.

It's been a common thread through much of the stakes action this meet - Californians shipping in to win a pot. That may well play out again here as Southern Californian Fitz Flag looms the favorite in the Hasta La Vista for owner El Faruk Stable and trainer Juan Reviriego. The 7-year-old Fitz Flag comes off two strong outings at Santa Anita. He was a close fourth in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey at 1 1/2 miles there March 24 and then came back to be third, beaten less than two lengths, in the about 1 3/4-mile Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano, so he's a proven stayer with class.

He's also proven on this course. He shipped here for an optional claimer Dec. 3 and powered home an easy winner. Regular Southern California partner Goncalino Almeida comes in to keep the mount.

Two other Southern Californians, Sleepless Joy and Key of Soloman, may pose the biggest threats. Owned and trained by Bob Hess Jr., the 7-year-old Sleepless Joy was a game winner over $40,000 claimers going 1 1/8 miles at Santa Anita March 10. Hess lost him via a claim that day, but when the horse reappeared in an optional claimer at Santa Anita April 7, Hess dove right in and took him back for the same $40,000 price tag. Sleepless Joy was second that day going 1 1/2 miles. Paul Atkinson rides.

Key of Soloman, trained by Neil Drysdale, hasn't won since taking a 1 1/4-mile turf event at Hollywood Park last July 1. He comes off a fifth at Santa Anita April 12 in what was his first start in five months. That may have him ready to peak now. Chris Landeros rides.

Geririg and In Joe's Honor, one-two finishers in the 1 3/8-mile Wildcat Handicap here April 14, the traditional prep for this race, are the main local hopes. Geririg comes off two straight wins on this course, including a $12,500 claimer here March 27. Adolfo Morales rides.

In Joe's Honor was the 3-5 favorite in the Wildcat and did well to get second with a strong late kick after significant trouble going to the far turn. He was fourth in the Hasta La Vista last year. Sandi Gann rides.

* Mark's My Name and Dancin in the City, both smart debut winners here April 20, head the $50,000 ATBA Spring Sales Stakes on Sunday. The five-furlong event for 2-year-olds lured a field of 12. Emanation, a filly who easily won her debut here April 2 before finishing third behind Dancin in the City, takes on the boys.