02/12/2004 12:00AM

Moonlit Maddie takes on three tough shippers

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PHOENIX - In the marquee race of the meet last week, the Turf Paradise BC Handicap, the locally based Black Bart tried to defeat Southern California invader Irish Warrior. He almost succeeded.

There is a similar scenario in Saturday's $50,000 Glendale Handicap at Turf Paradise, as the locally based Moonlit Maddie - coming off a smart win in the Kachina Handicap last month - attempts to defeat Southern California shippers Magnificent Val, Major Idea, and Harbor Blues. A field of 12 is entered in the 1 1/16-mile turf race.

Moonlit Maddie, trained by Bill Tollett, comes in sharp. After more than seven months on the sidelines, she returned to finish a strong third on this course going a mile in an optional claimer. Then came her win in the Kachina on dirt. On Saturday, she moves back to the turf, which might well be her preferred surface; 7 of her 12 wins have come on the grass.

But the Californians are big hurdles. Magnificent Val, the 121-pound co-highweight, ships in off two impressive wins on the turf in Southern California. She is trained by Jeff Mullins, many times the leading trainer here and a man who is now among the top trainers in Southern California. Two bullet works at Hollywood last week indicate Magnificent Val is fit and ready. Jake Barton rides.

Major Idea, also carrying 121 pounds, has a strong stakes r?sum?, and is trained by Neil Drysdale. She was dull in her comeback at Santa Anita Jan. 28, but could move forward drastically with that race under her belt. Matt Garcia comes in to ride.

Harbor Blues won the Arizona Oaks here by 11 lengths last year. She comes in off a second against allowance foes at Santa Anita

* Jockeys Scott Stevens and Mike Ziegler continue to recuperate from injuries suffered in a two-horse spill at Turf Paradise Sunday. Ziegler underwent surgery to repair a broken femur. Stevens, who suffered a fractured rib, was back at Turf Paradise Monday morning and is named on mounts Friday.

The incident occurred during the running of Sunday's ninth race. At the head the stretch Ziegler's mount, Valid Redress, broke down and Stevens, aboard Outdo, was unable to avoid the fallen horse and rider. The 6-year-old Valid Redress suffered fatal injuries. Outdo, a 10-year-old gelding, was not seriously injured.

Stevens is third in the jockey standings with 72 wins; Ziegler is sixth with 56.