05/02/2008 12:00AM

Mighty Bodacious could take finale


PHOENIX - The aptly named Hasta La Vista Handicap brings down the curtain on yet another Turf Paradise meeting Sunday, as 11 stayers are lined up in the $50,000 race, run at the unusual distance of 1 7/8 miles on the turf. The Hasta La Vista goes as the ninth race on the card, the final race of the meet.

The $40,000 ATBA Spring Sales Stakes, a five-furlong event for 2-year-olds consigned to the 2007 Arizona Thoroughbred Breeders Association fall sale, drew 10 horses and goes as the eighth race.

Besides the distance, there are a number of other noteworthy aspects to the Hasta La Vista. One of the main contenders, Chestertown Slew, is from the last crop of Triple Crown winner and great sire Seattle Slew. Whistled cost $1 million at auction in 2005 and has only recently begun his career for new connections. Boutrous earned a shot in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby last year. And Paladin Power, a 10-year-old who figures to be a longshot here, makes his sixth run at this title. He has 2 seconds and 2 thirds from his 5 previous tries.

Mighty Bodacious may be ready to put his stamp on the meet for owner-trainer Dana Vannorsdel. The 7-year-old gelding was third in the Wildcat Handicap here in April 2007, the traditional prep for this race. But he wasn't seen again until this March when he posted a couple of fifth-place finishes going a mile on the turf. He tried the 1 3/8-mile Wildcat again here April 6 and rallied smartly through the lane to get up for the victory at 20-1. His immediate victims - Chestertown Slew and Candlestick Park - are back in against him here.

That run may be a sign that Mighty Bodacious has turned the corner, and the way he finished hints he can handle the added half-mile. Ry Eikleberry rides.

Chestertown Slew was the 9-5 favorite in the Wildcat for owner Shawn Haggstrom and trainer Troy Bainum. He stalked the pace and surged to a clear lead into the lane, looking like the winner. But he ended up a half-length behind in second, while 2 3/4 lengths ahead of Candlestick Park. Sandi Gann rides.

Hidden Bounty, a romping 7 1/4-length winner in his career debut here April 18 for an 81 Beyer Speed Figure, looms as the one to beat in the ATBA Sales Stakes for trainer Tom Bartol. His main challenge figures to come from Big Bug Creek, likewise a devastating debut winner here April 18. He won his debut by 12 1/4 lengths for trainer Kevin Lewis, earning a 79 Beyer Speed Figure.

After the conclusion of the 153-day meet - it was originally scheduled for 156 but three days were lost due to weather - the Arizona racing scene shifts north to Yavapai Downs in Prescott Valley on May 24, with the meet running through Sept. 2. Racing returns to Phoenix for the 2008-09 Turf Paradise season Oct. 3.