11/15/2001 12:00AM

Kruljac entry strong, but not unbeatable


PHOENIX - Trainer Eric Kruljac probably has mixed feelings going into Saturday's $30,000 Paradise Valley Handicap at Turf Paradise. He sends the entry of Resolve and R. Baggio, which will probably be favored for the 7 1/2-furlong turf race for 3-year-olds.

On the one hand, Kruljac's horses have much going for them. On the other hand, there are reasons to think neither may run his best race.

Resolve, owned by Kruljac and Omar Aldabbagh, is a deserving 121-pound highweight. Last spring he narrowly lost the Tempe Handicap at a mile on this course to Saturday foe Ironman Dehere. Resolve came right back to win the Arizona Breeders Derby, for statebreds on dirt, by almost 17 lengths. Back on the turf in the Da Hoss at a mile April, he gained revenge on Ironman Dehere, going wire to wire in a 4 1/4-length romp.

That effort convinced his connections ship him to Hollywood for the Grade 3 Cinema in May. But Resolve washed out before the race, dueled for the lead, and finished last of seven.

He hasn't raced since, and it is not known whether he will return the same horse who looked so good in April.

Resolve leaves from post 4 under Scott Stevens.

R. Baggio, owned by Frank Lewkowitz, has been running well against allowance and optional claiming foes in Southern California. He just missed Nov. 4 going a mile on the dirt after being trapped on the inside. It was a super effort, as his 96 Beyer Speed Figure attests.

But the Paradise Valley is R. Baggio's first race on grass, and the first time he's shipped. He's by Chimes Band, who gets about 8 percent turf winners - about average.

R. Baggio leaves from post 2 under 119 pounds, with Stevens named to ride.

The main opponent to Kruljac's horses is Ironman Dehere. Trained by Fred Costa, Ironman Dehere found Southern California horses too tough at Fairplex in the Derby Trial and Pomona Derby. He returned here and ran fourth in the Walter R. Cluer Handicap Nov. 3. That race came against some of the tougher older horses on the grounds and marked his first start with blinkers. Ironman Dehere is back with his 3-year-old peers on Saturday.

Ironman Dehere breaks from post 3 under 120 pounds and jockey Dave Patton.

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