04/12/2006 11:00PM

Muir Beach dangerous back on dirt

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Muir Beach returns to dirt, her best surface, in Saturday's $40,000 Cactus Flower Handicap at Turf Paradise.

The six-furlong race for fillies and mares goes as the eighth race on a nine-race card and drew a field of 10.

Muir Beach has been the dominant female on this circuit the past couple seasons. Trained by Dan McFarlane, Muir Beach had an odd trip in the $40,000 Sun City at a mile on the turf March 18. She made a threatening run on the far turn, seemed to lose interest, and fell back. But then she came on a bit to garner third, beaten more than six lengths by the winner, Southern California shipper Dreams Come True.

Muir Beach has had a terrific career, winning 12 of 32 for $406,224. She has won several stakes and run well against some of the best females in Southern California. Muir Beach posted a strong six-furlong work in 1:11.40 at Turf Paradise on April 8. She will be the heavy favorite under regular rider Joel Campbell.

The biggest danger to Muir Beach is another Southern Californian, Mazella. Last winter, Mazella finished third in the Grade 3 Las Flores at Santa Anita. She went to the sidelines last May and returned Feb. 25 with a fifth in the Las Flores. She then dueled for the lead and finished fourth in the Flower Girl at Santa Anita on March 18. She moves to the barn of Dan Morgan for her first local try and will be ridden by Miguel Hernandez.

Katy Smiles may be the main local threat. Trained by David Van Winkle, Katy Smiles is in peak form, having won four in a row. She won two stakes here last fall and then was gone until March 26, when she won an optional claimer.