02/15/2007 12:00AM

Tie Rod leads local derby cast

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PHOENIX - A couple of local championships will likely be settled at Turf Paradise Saturday, when 3-year-olds run in the $100,000 Turf Paradise Derby and the $75,000 Arizona Oaks.

The derby, which goes as race 7 on the nine-race card, drew a field of nine going 1 1/16 miles. The Oaks (race 8), for fillies, has a full field of 10 plus one also-eligible ready to knock heads over a mile.

Tie Rod staked his claim as top local male 3-year-old with a resounding 10 3/4-length win in the Rattlesnake at Turf Paradise on Jan. 26. Owned by John Pendergrast and Joe Johnson, and trained by Johnson, Tie Rod had mixed results sprinting. But in the one-mile Rattlesnake, he pressed the pace under Juan Rivera, took over down the backside, and ran away from the rest of the field. His 85 Beyer Speed Figure is the best in the derby field, and anything near a repeat of that effort probably means the others are fighting for second.

Tie Rod appears to have retained his edge. He had a bullet five-furlong work in 58 seconds here on Feb. 9, the best of 24 at the distance that day.

The main danger to Tie Rod in the derby comes from California in the presence of Gregorian Bay, who is owned by George Todaro and trained by Craig Dollase. Gregorian Bay won his maiden at Hollywood Park Nov. 30, then was second going a mile at Golden Gate Dec. 29. He's by Breeders' Cup Mile winner War Chant out of a Seattle Slew mare, so surely the distance is right up his alley. He has some strong works for this and gets the services of leading rider Glenn Corbett.

Meanwhile, California invaders Summertime, Slew o' Platinum, and Blushing Bear Cat appear set to dominate the Oaks.

Summertime won her maiden in her debut at Hollywood Park Dec. 13 - enough for her connections to try the Grade 2 Santa Ynez at Santa Anita Jan. 15 for her next start. She ran seventh, behind the high-class Jump On In, but should prefer this softer company. Her sire, Siberian Summer, won the Strub Stakes, so distance should not be a problem.

Slew o' Platinum is a proven commodity locally. She shipped here from California and won the Sun Devil at a mile in the mud on Jan. 20. Blushing Bear Cat comes off two straight wins in Southern California, including an impressive allowance win at Santa Anita Jan. 15 at this distance.

The best local hopes are Staten Island and Against the Law. Staten Island finished second to Slew o' Platinum in the Sun Devil after setting the pace. Against the Law appeared to be the local division leader after four big wins, but was a well-beaten third in the Arizona Juvenile Filly. She bounced back gamely to win the Dancin at the Wire here Feb. 3. Those were all sprints, however, so she's trying a new game.