03/23/2006 1:00AM

Knapp runner at home on grass

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PHOENIX - Soft Seventeen may well have found his calling, racing on the grass, and if that is the case his 10 foes in Turf Paradise's $40,000 Tempe Handicap on Saturday could be in a bit of a jam. The race, which goes as the eighth on a nine-race card, is for 3-year-olds at about a mile on the turf.

Turf appears to be the key for Soft Seventeen, who is trained by Neil Knapp. He had already shown ability on dirt with a rallying maiden win in a sprint at Turf Paradise on Jan. 6, followed by a rallying third in the $75,000 Turf Paradise Derby Feb. 11.

But it is his last race that revealed his surface preference. In a 7 1/2-furlong optional claiming race on turf, Soft Seventeen bided his time toward the back early and powered home to win going away by three lengths, and the margin easily could have been more.

He has worked well since then and retains the services of leading rider Glenn Corbett toting high weight of 119 pounds.

Mr Playwright, Greasewood Flats, and Ragin Nonno each carry 118 pounds. Mr Playwright rallied to win going away in his first try on the turf, a 7 1/2-furlong entry-level allowance race at this track on Feb. 18. Trained by Manuel Uriza, Mr Playwright, like Soft Seventeen, might have found himself on the turf. O. A. Martinez Jr. rides.

Greasewood Flats was a rallying second behind Mr Playwright in the Feb. 18 turf race, then came back and rallied for second place in an allowance sprint at this track on March 5. He was moved up to first via disqualification.

Wilson Dieguez rides Greasewood Flats on Saturday for owner-trainer Bryan Porter.

Ragin Nonno has yet to race on turf. He rallied for second behind the very talented Southern California invader Corazondelcampeon in the Palo Verde Handicap at Turf Paradise on March 5. He will be ridden by Steve Gomez.

A possible spoiler is the filly Nezi O, who won the Sun Devil over this oval on Jan. 21.