03/24/2005 12:00AM

Tempe a leap of faith for many


PHOENIX - Saturday's $40,000 Tempe Handicap, a one-mile turf race at Turf Paradise, presents some new obstacles for the 11 3-year-olds entered. For most of them, it's their first time on turf. For some of them, it's their first time going long. For some it's both.

And even for the five who have at least tried turf, they are still trying to prove themselves at the stakes level.

Favoritism in the Tempe may fall to the Eric Kruljac-trained , who, along with Quintons Relaunch and Raging Wind, was assigned high weight of 120 pounds. Not only has Family Guy never tried turf, but the son of Western Fame has routed just once, finishing a fading sixth, and only has a maiden win.

But what a maiden win it was. He blasted maidens sprinting on dirt at Santa Anita last Saturday, romping by seven while earning a Beyer of 100. Kruljac is 2 for his last 4 when bringing a horse back in seven days or less. How Family Guy will take to the turf and handle a route, however, remains unknown.

"What I can tell you about him is he's fast - real fast," said Kruljac. "He broke his maiden easily, and he shows no ill effects from the effort."

, assigned 117 pounds and trained by Molly Pearson, finished third in the Palo Verde Handicap, a 6 1/2-furlong race for 3-year-olds here on March 6. Prior to that, Silent Exploit, a son of Exploit who is owned by Stuart Tsujimoto, raced eight times in Southern California, including his maiden win.

"Stuart Tsujimoto sent him over here specifically to try the grass," said Pearson. "We raced him in the Palo Verde because there wasn't a grass race for 3-year-olds available, and he closed well. He's done everything right since then."

Raging Wind comes off a game win in the Palo Verde for trainer Joe Johnson. He makes his first start on turf and beyond a sprint in the Tempe, and must do so from post 11. Quintons Relaunch, a close second to Raging Wind in the Palo Verde, has run decently routing, and makes his first start on turf.

Claymont showed promise when he won as the favorite at 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf on Jan. 24.

* There will be no live racing here Sunday because of the Easter holiday. Live racing resumes Monday.