10/21/2009 11:00PM

Phoenix turf season kicks off with stakes double


PHOENIX - A new hybrid grass was installed this summer at Turf Paradise so the meet could conduct turf racing from the start instead of having to wait until November or so when the winter overseed took root. It's opened up more options for horsemen and bettors alike, and the benefits can be seen Saturday with a stakes doubleheader that features some of the best grass horses on the grounds, not to mention some scary Southern California imports.

The $50,000 Walter R. Cluer Memorial Handicap, named for the track's founder, goes as race 8 on a nine-race program. Bingham and Mutak Gold are the 124-pound highweights in the field of 10, but the horse to beat may be Allegre, who was force on the turf here last season.

The $50,000 Queen of the Green Handicap (race 6), at a mile on the turf for fillies and mares, drew a field of eight, and marks the return of Star of Whitney. Third in this race last year, Star of Whitney is a multiple stakes winner on this course and the 122-pound highweight on Saturday.

Allegre, trained by Mike Chambers, came into his own last year. After starting his career back East he came to Phoenix and graduated on the turf last Nov. 30. That started his run. He beat allowance foes, had a hiccup when fourth in an optional claimer, but then won three straight including the Black Bart and the Wildcat Handicap on April 5, his last race. He's 5 for 6 on this course and Jake Barton, his regular pilot, has the call in the Cluer.

Bingham, trained by Kevin Lewis, loves it here, too. He's 4 for 8 on this course and that includes finishing third to Allegre in the Black Bart and fourth to him in the Wildcat. After a summer vacation he came back in the Bienvenidos on the main track here Oct. 2 and was second, beaten 6 1/4 lengths by Mutak Gold. The return to turf can help. Regular pilot Glen Corbett is up but they are stuck with the outside post.

Mutak Gold looked super romping in the Bienvenidos but that was on dirt. Mutak Gold ran fourth in his only turf start, though he was beaten only 1 1/4 lengths by a strong bunch of Southern California sprinters. Ry Eikleberry rides.

Stormy Surge has upset potential in the Cluer. He ships in from Northern California off two smashing turf wins at Golden Gate.

Star of Whitney heads the Queen of the Green, but she must deal with the likes of Czechers, Profitability, and Southern California raider Taste's Sis.

Star of Whitney, trained by Dennis Sowers, has been brilliant at Turf Paradise. Of her 12 wins, 9 have come here. She was last seen winning the Desert Sky on this course May 2. Eikleberry rides.

Profitability comes off some decent main-track efforts in Southern California and may appreciate returning to turf, having run third to Star of Whitney in the Desert Sky. Czechers was third in the Chandler on this course last November and has speed. Taste's Sis ran fifth against some tougher Southern California girls in the Swingtime at Santa Anita Oct. 12 and certainly has quality.