01/22/2004 1:00AM

Swift success would prove Toast for Mr. Expo belongs


PHOENIX - Toast for Mr. Expo will dive into the deep end of the pool in Saturday's $40,000 Swift Stakes for 4-year-olds and upward who have started at the Turf Paradise meet. A 5 1/2-furlong event, the Swift Stakes has lured a field of eight, including many of the old guard in the local sprint division.

Entrants such as Dan's Groovy, Coded Message, Iza Redhead, Jetson, and Rocky Bar have long established themselves among the elite in the local sprint ranks. Toast for Mr. Expo, however, is the new kid on the block who is trying to prove his recent exploits should give him entrance to the club.

And considering his recent form, who's to argue? A 6-year-old gelding, Toast for Mr. Expo comes off four scintillating efforts: He romped by over eight lengths in a $6,250 claimer here Nov. 5; whipped $8,000 claimers by three here Nov. 23; then went through the roof when he moved up to face $10,000 claimers Dec. 14 in his first race since being claimed by Kenneth Bennett, winning by almost eight for a 95 Beyer. To prove it wasn't a fluke, he came back Jan. 2, this time against $12,500 foes, and won by nine, posting a 91 Beyer. Those figures more than stand up to the competition he faces here. Toast for Mr. Expo was claimed after his last race by Chad Ferguson, who keeps regular rider Lorenzo Lopez in the irons.

Toast for Mr. Expo could run big again and fall short, as the competition here is stiff. Dan's Groovy is a local legend, having won 13 times, including some of this track's top sprint stakes. He hasn't run since tiring in the Dec. 7 G Malleah here. He is trained by Michael Lenzini.

Palmerton comes off two smart wins in optional claiming sprints and is in the best form of his life. His last two Beyers (93 and 91) show he is one of trainer Lyman Rollins's top horses.

Coded Message blasted sprinters in the G Malleah in his first start in over 16 months. He tried tough Southern Californians on turf last time but came up empty. Trained by Paul Aguirre, Coded Message has had a couple of strong works since his last start.

Rocky Bar, trained by Kory Owens, still has his sizzling speed, and it wasn't long ago that he could hold his own with good Southern California sprinters. Captain's Maneuver has improved dramatically in recent months for trainer Bryan Porter and may be this good.