09/30/2008 11:00PM

New meet begins after a rough off-season

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PHOENIX – Turf Paradise kicks offs its 53rd season Friday with a new voice, new eyes, and a heavy heart.

The 156-day 2008-09 season commences without regular track announcer Luke Kruytbosch and without longtime track photographer Jack Coady Sr., both of whom died this summer.

Opening day is highlighted by the $50,000 Luke Kruytbosch. The six-furlong event for 3-year-olds (formerly the Saguaro Stakes) was renamed in honor of Turf Paradise’s track announcer since 1993. Kruytbosch, 47, died July 14. Frank Mirahmadi, a well-traveled track announcer known for his impersonations of famous racecallers, has been named to succeed Kruytbosch.

The $50,000 Jack Coady Sr. Stakes, formerly the Paradise Valley, will be run Nov. 15. That mile turf race for 3-year-olds was renamed to honor the track’s finish line and winner’s circle photographer since 1960. Coady, 80, died Aug. 4.

The complete stakes roster has 41 events valued at over $2.1 million. The long meet runs through May 3, 2009, primarily on a Friday-through-Tuesday basis with a regular post of 12:30 p.m. and full-card simulcasting seven days a week.

Management has high expectations for the season, pointing out an oversubscribed stable area.

“The enthusiasm of the horsemen is there, given that 2,800 horses applied for 2,000 available stalls,” said track owner Jerry Simms. “We have the essentials for a successful meet.”

Turf Paradise refurbished its racing surfaces over the off-season.

“We renovated the turf course and main track completely to encourage larger field size, thus generating more handle and purses,” said general manager Eugene Joyce. “All signs are positive for a great meet.”

White Spar, the top 3-year-old sprinter on this circuit, is the 2-1 morning-line favorite among the six in the Kruytbosch.

White Spar showed his quality in June when he shipped to Hollywood Park and was beaten a neck in the Captain Squire. Owned by Dennis Weir and trained by Kevin Lewis, he has won the Arizona Breeders Futurity, Arizona Stallion and Grand Canyon over this track. Daniel Vergara rides.

Zetterberg (5-2) ships in from Southern California for owner Paul Reddam and trainer Craig Dollase. He comes off an optional claiming win at Fairplex. Ry Eikleberry rides.

Trainer Molly Pearson sends out Red Sky Dubai (7-2). He won his first two starts in romping fashion over this track in February and March. He was then fifth in the San Miguel at Santa Anita and fourth in the Harry Henson on the turf at Hollywood Park on April. Miguel Hernandez rides.