05/19/2005 11:00PM

Invaders tough in season finale


The aptly named Hasta La Vista Handicap brings down the curtain on the long Turf Paradise season Sunday, but as with many other stakes during the meet, the $50,000 marathon's top prize may go back with Southern California invader.

Habaneros and Native Approval, two Southern California invaders, are among the horses to beat as 11 go in the traditional Turf Paradise closing-day feature at 1 7/8 miles on the turf. The Hasta La Vista is the final race of the meet, race 11 on Sunday's card.

Habaneros is no stranger to the Phoenix area. Trained by Ray Bell, Habaneros just finished a much-troubled second in the 1 3/8-mile Wildcat Handicap over this course May 1. Besides that being his first race here and first in more than six weeks, Habaneros was blocked into the lane when trying to make a run. He finished well but eventual winner

J J Wantsthefront was already long gone. He faces J J Wantsthefront again here. Habaneros carries high weight of 121 pounds and the meet's leading rider, Wilson Dieguez.

Native Approval does not have any local experience but he does have some solid Southern California form the past few seasons, which makes him a player here. Trained by Vladimir Cerin, he comes off a fifth-place finish at Hollywood Park last month against $40,000 claimers. Native Approval is trying a new distance game - the farthest he has gone is 1 1/2 miles, and he was fourth that day at Santa Anita. Jorge Carreno rides at 117 pounds.

J J Wantsthefront, second highweight at 119 pounds, has perhaps the best chance among the locals to win the race. Trained by Peter Pizzurro, J J Wantsthefront has been in strong form all meet and comes off a career-best run in the 1 3/8-mile Wildcat Handicap here May 1. J J Wantsthefront stalked the pace that day and powered home. Runner-up Habaneros had trouble in the lane but he would have had trouble catching J J Wantsthefront with clear sailing. Leslie Mawing rides.

A potential upsetter is the veteran Paladin Power. Trained by Cesario Olivas, Paladin Power was a third in this race last year. He was also third behind J J Wantsthefront and Habaneros in the Wildcat Handicap. He carries 115 pounds and jockey Akifumi Kato.

Also on the card (race 10) is the $35,000 ATBA Spring Sales Stakes. The five-furlong event for 2-year-olds lured a field of 12 and two also-eligibles. The main players here include Training Ty, who is unbeaten in two career starts; Hi Tops, also unbeaten in two career starts; and Snowbound Jetario, who finished second to Training Ty in his debut then came back to win with the field's top Beyer of 61.

Live racing moves to Yavapai beginning Saturday for its annual summer run through Sept. 6. Racing returns to Turf Paradise for the track's 50th anniversary season Sept. 30.