05/03/2009 11:00PM

Highland Games closes meet with bang


PHOENIX - Highland Games picked a good time for his first turf victory, capturing the $50,000 Hasta La Vista Handicap Sunday, the traditional closing-day feature at Turf Paradise.

Owned by the Sandra Hall Trust and trained by Lyman Rollins, the 6-year-old gelding sat midpack in the 1 7/8-mile grass marathon, steadily advanced as the field reached the far turn, took a run at the leaders into the lane and gamely persevered under Miguel Hernandez to win by three-quarters of a length. Latino Summer, the 2-1 favorite who stalked the pace and opened up into the lane as if he was going to win, held second ahead of New Fandan, who rallied for third in the field of eight.

Highland Games ran the distance in 3:11.10 and paid $7 as the second choice. The victory, his first on turf in seven tries, pushed his career bankroll to $176,546 from eight wins in 27 starts.

*Earlier on the closing-day card, Espresso Springs proved a prompt choice at 4-5 when capturing the $78,695 ATBA Spring Sales Stakes. Owned by Double Kee LLC and trained by Jacque Guerra, the 2-year-old gelded son of Rocky Bar jumped right into a pace battle from the start of the five-furlong event, put away the other speed, and drew clear under Vince Guerra to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Signing Sis, who dueled with the winner from the start, held on for second, while Lonesome Creek rallied from well back for third in the field of 12.

Espresso Springs ran the distance in 58.24 and paid $3.60. He's now unbeaten in two starts and the winner's share of $40,941 pushes his earnings to $45,381.