10/30/2003 1:00AM

Five Schillings hot horse in Cluer


PHOENIX - Saturday's Walter Cluer Handicap at Turf Paradise is so contentious that the 10 entrants are weighted within four pounds of each other. The 7 1/2-furlong turf event has lured the likes of 2001 winner Bristolville, 2002 runner-up Milk Wood, the razor-sharp Playing It Cool, and Komax, who was highweighted at 120 pounds for his dirt exploits but hasn't run since January.

Favoritism, however, figures to fall to Five Schillings, a hot-to-the-touch California shipper. The 7-year-old Five Schillings always had ability, as he won numerous races on the turf in Southern California. He obviously also had many problems, as layoffs often interfered with his schedule.

This past summer, Five Schillings was claimed away from Ron McAnally by Brian Koriner, and then won a $25,000 claimer at Bay Meadows on Sept. 1. That drew the attention of Eric Kruljac, who claimed Five Schillings out of his next race, a romp in another $25,000 claimer on the turf at Bay Meadows. That win was even more impressive, because Five Schillings had a terrible trip but had enough late acceleration to overcome it.

Kruljac is having a phenomenal meet - having won 13 of his first 28 (46 percent) - and it's encouraging that he brings Five Schillings back where he can't be claimed away. Hoogie Drexler rides from post 7.

Another Southern Californian to fear is Beautiful Balance. A 6-year-old gelding, Beautiful Balance hasn't run in almost 14 months, but he has won seven times and has plenty of back class. He has also shown that he can fire fresh.

Komax, trained by Kory Owens for the Triple AAA Ranch, has plenty to overcome. He hasn't run in more than nine months, returns going two turns on turf, and must deal with the outside post 10. Komax finished fourth the only time he tried turf, which came here at the 7 1/2-furlong distance of the Walter Cluer, in the 2001 Paradise Valley Handicap.

Playing It Cool comes off a six-plus-length romp in the Kriskimkel on dirt here Oct. 20 but is also proven on the turf, with a 4-for-12 record on this course.

Milk Wood hasn't run since April but has been in the exacta in all five tries on this course. He lost his last five races, with each of them having been won by Free Corona, the horse of the meet.

Bristolville won the 2001 Cluer and made a nice return run here Oct. 11 in his first try in about 17 months. He might be set for his best now.