03/14/2002 12:00AM

New surface, distance for Jetson

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PHOENIX - Apparently trainer Joseph Johnson thinks it's time to shake things up. Jetson, his prize 3-year-old, dominated the division sprinting as a 2-year-old. Things have not gone nearly as well this year, so Johnson sends Jetson a mile on turf in Saturday's $35,000 Tempe Handicap at Turf Paradise.

Jetson is the 121-pound highweight, but he certainly didn't scare anyone off - 10 have lined up against him.

It's not hard to understand why. After sprinting so well as a juvenile, Jetson finished second going a route in the Rattlesnake in his 3-year-old debut. He was nowhere in the Turf Paradise Derby, and late last month he finished a non-threatening third sprinting in the Palo Verde Handicap.

Now Jetson, a son of Society Max, is asked to route and turf. His pedigree doesn't exactly scream grass, so how he will handle the surface is a mystery. If Jetson does handle the turf his speed must be respected. It wasn't that long ago he was beating many of these handily. Steve Gomez has the call.

One thing in Jetson's corner is that few of his opponents have established form on turf. The most accomplished are Playing It Cool and Mountain Shadows, who ran one-two on this course at this distance on Feb. 26 in a $16,000 claimer. Playing It Cool, trained by Tony Klenakis, eyes his third victory in a row, having won a mile restricted claimer on dirt before his grass win. Mark Zeigler has the mount.

Mountain Shadows, trained by Todd Rarick, dueled for the lead in the Feb. 26 turf race, and while he put away the other speed, he couldn't fend off Playing It Cool. Mountain Shadows doesn't have to be on the lead, and that versatility helps. Frank Gonsalves has the call.

An intriguing entrant is Malone, a son of Affirmed who comes off a maiden victory here at a mile in his first race on turf. Kelly Bridges rides.

Trainer Nick Canani saddles Southern California invader Daddy Grace, who has run twice. A son of Petionville, he has not run on turf or gone a route, but he won a maiden race at Santa Anita in first start and finished third in a starter allowance there. Glen Corbett rides.

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