04/03/2009 12:00AM

Obrigado owns huge class edge in Wildcat


PHOENIX - You can't blame the connections of eight horses for the $50,000 Wildcat Handicap at Turf Paradise if they were shocked when they saw their competition. This 1 3/8-mile turf race seems to be at the mercy of Obrigado, a Grade 1-placed Southern California raider who appears to have a significant class edge should he come here for trainer Neil Drysdale.

Sunday's card also includes the $50,000 Princess of Palms Handicap for fillies and mares going six furlongs. The field of seven includes a number of the best of the local division, including Shesa Private I, Goodbye Norma Jean, and Born With Eagles. The Wildcat goes as race 7 on the nine-race card; the Princess of Palms is race 5.

The Wildcat is Obrigado's race to lose. A 6-year-old gelding, Obrigado has been knocking heads with some of the best turf horses in California for the past year. Just a few months ago, in the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup, he rallied smartly to be second behind Champs Elysees. His form hasn't been as sharp since - he was eighth in both the Grade 2 San Marcos on Jan. 19 and Grade 2 San Luis Obispo on Feb. 22. The class drop may get him back on track.

Brice Blanc is slated to ride Obrigado, the 124-pound highweight, who will get blinkers back on. His best work has come with blinkers.

Allegre, On My Dime, and Bingham just ran one-two-three in the 1 1/8-mile Black Bart on the turf here. Allegre, trained by Mike Chambers, has blossomed of late, winning four of his last five, all on this turf course. On My Dime continues his sharp form for trainer Dennis Sowers. He has won three of his last five. On My Dime was fourth in the Turf Paradise Handicap on Feb. 14, won the Hang on Slewpy on March 3, and then finished second in the Black Bart.

Bingham may actually be the best of the trio. Trained by Kevin Lewis, he won the Cotton Fitzsimmons here Jan. 17 and the Turf Paradise Handicap. He was a close second to On My Dime at 1-2 in the Hang on Slewpy and was then third at 2-5 in the Black Bart. His speed and the rail may make him an elusive target.

w Shesa Private I is the 124-pound highweight and horse to beat in the Princess of Palms. Trained by Bart Hone she has won three of her last four, and the three wins all came here. The one loss came at Sunland. She won the Phoenix Handicap here Nov. 1 and most recently the Mesa Handicap on March 14.

Goodbye Norma Jean has loads of speed. She was second in her only local start, the Phoenix Handicap on Nov. 1, between Shesa Private I and Born With Eagles. She won a stakes at Sunland on Dec. 28 and most recently was second in an allowance race there March 17.

Born With Eagles won three in a row this meet, including the Valid Leader and the Muir Beach. She dueled for the lead and finished second in the Mesa Handicap here March 14 just behind Shesa Private I.