03/12/2016 6:54PM

Gunfire prevails in four-horse photo in Tempe Handicap

Coady Photography
The 3-year-old Gunfire (white blinkers), making his first start on turf, gets up by a nose under Andrew Ramgeet in the Tempe Handicap.

PHOENIX – Gunfire couldn’t handle Nightly News when second in the Turf Paradise Derby on Feb. 20. However, a surface switch helped Gunfire, a son of crack grass sire Tapit, turn the tables as he flourished first time on grass to win Saturday’s $27,575 Tempe Handicap for 3-year-olds.

Owned by Mercedes Stables LLC and trained by Robertino Diodoro (the same owner/trainer combination that won the Scottsdale Handicap with Malibu Kash earlier on the card), Gunfire ($10.40) sat midpack under Andrew Ramgeet as Circus Ride set the early pace, moved closer turning for home, and gamely went after the leaders to win by a nose in a four-horse blanket photo.

Senator Robert, fourth in the Turf Paradise Derby and also racing on turf for the first time, stalked the pace, took the lead into the lane, and was a sharp second, another nose in front of Arizona Moon, who was third in the derby but already stakes-placed on turf. He finished another nose ahead of hard-charging Ready Intaglio. Nightly News was the disappointment as the even-money favorite sat midpack, swung wide into the lane but never mustered a run, finishing eighth in the field of 10. It’s almost surely back to dirt for him.

Gunfire ran the mile in 1:37.70 and the winner’s share of $16,242 gives him earnings of $37,477 from two wins in six starts.

Malibu Kash uncatchable in Scottsdale

Malibu Kash ($7.80), off the board in her three prior grass starts, used her speed to remedy that situation as she gamely led all the way to take the $26,400 Scottsdale Handicap at a mile on turf.

A daughter of Malibu Moon, Malibu Kash broke alertly from her rail slot, went right to the lead under Daniel Vergara, was able to set modest splits, looked in trouble when Hymn’s Girl came to challenge her into the lane but gamely rebuffed that rival and was edging away late to win by a half-length. It was another 2 1/4 lengths back to 4-5 favorite Joan of Arch, third in the field of five 3-year-old fillies.

Malibu Kash ran the distance in 1:38. The winner’s share of $16,368 gives her earnings of $29,316 from two wins in eight starts.