02/03/2005 12:00AM

Muir Beach must carry 127 pounds


PHOENIX - Two recent stakes wins have set Muir Beach apart. She is, indeed, the top filly on the grounds at Turf Paradise, and looms the heavy favorite to make it three stakes wins in a row when she takes on six others in the $40,000 Princess of Palms Handicap on Saturday.

But with all her success comes a price. Because the six-furlong Princess of Palms is a handicap, it's time for Muir Beach to pay the piper, and in this case that means she will carry high weight of 127 pounds, conceding from seven to 20 pounds to her rivals.

"Her weight assignment is an advantage to the rest of the field and a disadvantage to us," said regular rider Wilson Dieguez, whose record with the 4-year-old Muir Beach is 5 wins and 2 seconds from 7 starts. "But she's a class act, versatile and very game."

Muir Beach, who picked up three pounds off her recent victory in the Kachina Handicap on Jan. 15, will carry the highest impost of her 20-race career. In all likelihood, however, the weight won't matter. That's because Muir Beach, a daughter of Horse of the Year Skip Away, is thoroughly professional and versatile. While her Kachina win came going a mile, her Mesa Handicap win here on Dec. 18 came sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs. In her four attempts at six furlongs she has three wins and a second.

Her main challenges figure to come from Arch Lady (120 pounds) and Friendofthefamily (119 pounds). Arch Lady, trained by Molly Pearson, was second to Muir Beach in the Kachina last time out. Is fact, in her last seven races she has four victories - all in races where Muir Beach was not entered. In the other three races Muir Beach beat Arch Lady.

Friendofthefamily made a strong early move to the lead in the one-mile Kachina and now moves back to a sprint, which may be more to her liking. She finished second to Muir Beach in the Mesa, getting within a length at the wire. On that day she was receiving six pounds from Muir Beach; Saturday, she gets eight. Jorge Carreno has the mount.