04/04/2002 12:00AM

Pedigree points out Paloma Parilla


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - More so than in most races, handicapping Saturday's $100,000 Grand Prairie Turf Challenge at Lone Star Park revolves around class and pedigree.

Five of the 12 entrants in the one-mile grass race have never raced on turf, giving reason to explore sire data and pedigree information in search of a horse with a grass future.

One such runner could be Paloma Parilla, winner of a division of the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park last month. He is a 3-year-old son of Dove Hunt, who won five graded stakes on grass.

Paloma Parilla's pedigree screams turf, and his past performances scream runner. After starting his career at Louisiana Downs last fall, Paloma Parilla, owned by Barnett Stables, has steadily improved. Except for one race when he bled while suffering from a lung infection, he has been game and consistent.

Now comes a test on turf, a surface on which his trainer, Larry Robideaux, expects him to excel. "I think he'd run on blacktop, cement - if I asked him," he said.

It won't come to that. If Paloma Parilla performs well Saturday, he will return to dirt for the $500,000 Lone Star Derby May 11.

To win Saturday, Paloma Parilla must overcome more than his lack of turf experience. He must rebound from a quarter crack incurred during the Southwest. The injury took two weeks to heal, and cost him a start in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

Robideaux admits he hasn't been able to work him as much as he would have liked. "I'm probably more concerned about fitness than his foot," he said, noting the horse has only breezed once - a bullet six-furlongs here Monday in 1:11.80 - since the Southwest Mar. 2. Marlon St. Julien rides.

The likely favorite is National Park, a graded stakes-placed shipper from California. Trained by Bob Hess for The Fog City Stable, he finished second March 14 in the Academy Road Stakes at Santa Anita, before being placed third by the stewards for interference.

As a 2-year-old last year, he closed for third behind Mountain Rage in the Grade 3 Generous Stakes at Hollywood Park. Those races preceded a couple of quality dirt performances, a fourth in the Grade 2 Santa Catalina Stakes and a runner-up finish in the Turf Paradise Derby.

Corey Lanerie has the mount on National Park, the only horse in the field with more than one turf victory.

Other contenders include Victory Dawn, Royal Win, and Premedita-tion - all of whom have established grass form.

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