04/30/2010 12:00AM

Rate of Change at top of his game


PHOENIX - Rate of Change looks to make it two straight stakes victories on Sunday in the $25,000 Hasta La Vista Handicap, a 1 7/8-mile grass marathon that is the traditional closing-day event at Turf Paradise.

Rate of Change has done little wrong in two years. Trained by Mike Chambers, he's finished in the top three in 12 straight races. After a break last spring and summer, he came back as good as ever here last fall in a series of allowance races. A victory on grass in his return was followed by a third on grass and two runner-up efforts on dirt.

Off for about 2 1/2 months, he came back April 3 and won the 1 3/8-mile Wildcat Handicap on the turf. That sets him up well for this race, and the way he finished that day after stalking the pace indicates he can handle this longer trip.

The main opposition to Rate of Change in the field of 11 figures to come from Troubletimesthree and Fox in the House. Troubletimesthree plied his trade in Southern California in 2009 and early 2010, even chasing the likes of top-class turf marathoner Bourbon Bay when fourth in a 1 1/2-mile grass race at Santa Anita on Jan. 6. He shipped here for the Wildcat Handicap for trainer Leonard Powell, and after lagging back early finished with good energy to be third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Rate of Change. He has more distance experience than Rate of Change and figures to handle this added ground.

Fox in the House has blossomed in recent months for trainer Wade Rarick. He was claimed for a mere $6,250 out of a turf win here March 12 and seems to have found his niche going long on turf, finishing second in the Turf Distance qualifier here March 26 and winning the 1 1/2-mile finale impressively April 12.

Warren's Jack V. is winless in five grass starts but was second on dirt in the 1 5/8-mile Marathon Stakes here Feb. 20, so he has distance capabilities. The horse who beat him that day, C My Secret, is entered here as well and may appreciate moving back to this longer game after three straight mile races.

* Also on the card is the $50,000 Arizona Thoroughbred Breeders Association Spring Sales Stakes. The five-furlong event for 2-year-olds drew a field of 12 and will feature the fastest qualifiers from the April 16 trials - Rucker Canyon, Cocolalla, El Rancho, and Gotta Skedaddle.

* The Arizona racing circuit gets a brief break before action moves to Yavapai Downs near Prescott in northern Arizona. That meet commences May 29 and runs through Sept. 7.