12/12/2002 1:00AM

R. Baggio is back

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PHOENIX, Ariz. - The only time R. Baggio set foot on the Turf Paradise turf course he won easily.

Surely owner Frank Lewkowitz and trainer Eric Kruljac are hoping for a little deja vu with the 4-year-old R. Baggio in Saturday's $50,000 Paradise Mile Handicap, a one-mile turf race that attracted eight runners.

In the Paradise Valley Handicap on turf here 13 months ago, R. Baggio stalked the pace and blasted home to win by four lengths. Left in second place was the very fast and tough Resolve.

R. Baggio has been racing with some tough runners in Southern California. Recent third- and fourth-place finishes on the turf at Santa Anita and Hollywood suggest that R. Baggio is sharp and fit. He carries co-highweight of 119 pounds. Hoogie Drexler rides.

Co-highweighted with R. Baggio is Southern California shipper Jahaam. The 6-year-old Jahaam comes off a win over $62,500 claimers on the Hollywood turf Nov. 28. Trained by Michael Puhich, Jahaam is well traveled, having campaigned in Dubai earlier in the year and before that in New York and Great Britain. On Nov. 1, Jahaam finished seventh, about four lengths behind R. Baggio, in an optional claimer at Santa Anita. But that race was Jahaam's first start in seven months and first in the United States since returning from Dubai. Octavio Vergara rides Saturday.

No change to simulcast law

Arizona racetrack operators were relieved to find out that gambling legislation signed last week by Gov. Jane Hull did not contain language that would allow Indian casinos to take simulcasts directly. The tracks feared the legislation, Proposition 202, would allow out-of-state simulcasts to go directly to the casinos, rather than be beamed to the casinos through the racetracks, which could have deprived the tracks and horsemen of a share of the betting.

But according to a spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Gaming, out-of-state simulcasts still must go through the racetracks.

"The way that it is now is the way that it is in the [new] compact," said Christa Severns of the department of gaming.

Because of a dispute between the state's casinos and racetracks, casinos in Arizona do not currently take bets on horse races.

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