03/31/2010 11:00PM

Highland Games proven going long


PHOENIX - The emphasis at Turf Paradise on Saturday will be stamina. Eleven marathoners clash in the $25,000 Wildcat Handicap, a 1 3/8-mile race that leads up to the traditional closing-day stakes, the 1 7/8-mile Hasta La Vista Handicap on May 2.

The Wildcat is the eighth race on the card and headlines a stakes tripleheader, along with the $25,000 Arizona Stallion Stakes (race 6) at 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf for 3-year-olds sired by an Arizona stallion, which drew a field of 10, and the $25,000 Princess of Palms Handicap (race 7), a six-furlong event for fillies and mares, which drew 10.

Highland Games may go favored in the Wildcat. A 7-year-old trained by Lyman Rollins, Highland Games is a proven stayer, finishing fifth in this race last year before winning the Hasta La Vista. He has been going shorter since but has been just as sharp. This season, he has finished second in the one-mile Cotton Fitzsimmons on this turf course and third sprinting in the Phoenix Gold Cup, and comes off a strong win in the 6 1/2-furlong Coyote Handicap on March 15.

Carnera was once good enough to knock heads with Grade 2 or Grade 3 horses in New York. That was in 2006 and 2007, however, and he was sidelined from September 2007 to November 2009. While he may not be the same horse for trainer Mike Chambers, he still has gas in the tank. A 7-year-old, he came back to finish eighth on the main track here Nov. 27 but has raced on turf in his four starts since. His best races were a victory Jan. 17 and seconds Feb. 15 and March 14.

Living Word beat Carnera on Feb. 15, then ran second on the grass here March 2 and won March 19. Sommelier Smarty has won three in a row on this turf course, but this is a new distance for him. His three wins here came at a mile, the farthest he has gone in his career.

* Pinal gets the nod over filly Got an Itch in the Arizona Breeders. Pinal was third in the Turf Paradise Derby on the main track Feb. 20. He moved to grass for the first time in the one-mile Tempe Handicap on March 13, setting the pace under pressure and finishing second. Got an Itch ran third in her only turf race.

* Blumin Beauty, Puff Maddie, and Littlemiss Allison, the top-three finishers from the 6 1/2-furlong Mesa here Jan. 30, knock heads again in the Princess of Palms. Puff Maddie is the one to beat. She tried turf and routing in the Desert Sky here March 13 and finished last of nine. Sprinting on the main track is her game.

Shakenwithanolive, second in the Sun Devil here last October, invades again after showing good form in California.