02/14/2002 12:00AM

'Slewpy' needs his 'A' game


PHOENIX, Ariz. - There's little doubt that in the pond known as Turf Paradise Hangonslewpyhangon is the biggest fish. A 6-year-old, he goes into Saturday's $50,000 Coyote Handicap looking to solidify that position, having won three straight sprints this meet.

But there are new fish lurking as a field of nine is entered in the six-furlong race, notably two new shooters from Southern California in Top Hit and Love That Lion. Throw in such usual suspects as Quinton's Gold, Mistakenly Special, Classy Sheikh, and Iza Redhead and you can see that Hangonslewpyhangon will need his A game to win.

But the way Hangonslewpyhangon is going, that is definitely not out of reach. He has won 13 of 33 races, including 9 of 18 at Turf Paradise, and comes off wins in the Honor the Hero and the Swift, with an optional claiming victory in between. In the Swift, he stalked from a disadvantageous inside post, moved out, and won by a deceptively easy three-quarters of the length, posting a 100 Beyer.

The Clifford Leavitt-owned and trained Hangonslewpyhangon carries co-highweight of 120 pounds and regular rider Glen Corbett, but must deal with a rail post that has been nightmarish here in sprints this meet.

Also toting 120 pounds is Top Hit, who made his initial splash here as a juvenile, winning the 2000 Christmas Futurity. Last spring he ventured to Southern California where he ran a good third in the Grade 3 Laz Barrera to Early Flyer and Breeders' Cup Sprint champ Squirtle Squirt, then was second beaten just a neck in the Grade 3 Affirmed, and then fourth beaten five lengths by Congaree.

He next shipped to Remington and won the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby. He was gone a couple months, and ran poorly in the Bay Meadows Derby (on turf), but has been given time since by trainer Kory Owens.

He prepped well for this and sprinting may be his best game. He is 3 for 4 at Turf Paradise, and unlike Hangonslewpyhangon is well drawn outside. If someone beats Hangonslewpyhangon, Top Hit is the most logical candidate. Leslie Mawing rides.

Another Southern California shipper, Love That Lion, may have a say, too. Love That Lion seemed to turn the corner last summer at Hollywood Park, tearing off what would be five straight wins, starting with mid-range claimers and ending with two stakes, at Sacramento and Fairplex. He was claimed Dec. 31 at Santa Anita by trainer Martin Kenney and promptly ran a good third in the restricted Sensational Star down the hillside turf course at Santa Anita Jan. 12.

He worked well here Feb. 5 (three furlongs in 33.80 seconds), and if he remains sharp he can pose a threat. Steve Gomez rides at 118 pounds.

Of the familiar faces Quinton's Gold may have the best shot. He was second to Hangonslewpyhangon in the Dec. 15 Honor the Hero.

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