02/23/2012 1:01PM

Turf Paradise: Derby, Arizona Oaks draw strong invaders

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PHOENIX, Ariz. – There’s a common theme running through Turf Paradise’s two big races for 3-year-olds Saturday: Can the local contingent in the $75,000 Turf Paradise Derby and $35,000 Arizona Oaks keep the Southern Californian barbarians at the gate? That’s the question as 10 males line up in the 1 1/16-mile Derby (race 8) while six fillies go at it in the mile Oaks (race 6).

Two Southern Californians of note come for the Derby. Congrats Ski, owned by Six-S Racing Stable and trained by Craig Lewis, was claimed out of a rallying runner-up finish against $50,000 maiden claimers at Santa Anita on Jan. 26. He came back to go wire to wire and romp by 9 3/4 lengths over $75,000 maidens sprinting there Feb. 10, to earn a gaudy Beyer Speed Figure of 86. The Beyer Figure may be big, but he is now asked to ship for the first time, face winners for the first time, and route for the first time. Still, he may go favored under Kevin Krigger.

Immaculate has just a maiden sprint win to his credit as well, recorded at Santa Anita Feb. 4, earning a 76 Beyer. But it’s his pedigree and price tag that draw the eye. He cost owner Southern Equine Stable LLC $450,000 at auction in September 2010. He’s a son of Distorted Humor (produced champion 3-year-old Funny Cide) and champion 2-year-old filly Folklore. He worked a strong 6 furlongs (1:12.40) at Santa Anita Feb. 18 for trainer Eric Guillot.

The local contingent is headed by Taylors Deal. Owned by the North American Thoroughbred Horse Company and trained by Sandi Gann, he easily won the Lost in the Fog Juvenile here Dec. 26, earning a 79 Beyer. This will be his first start since and first route, but he has trained well.

Higgs, owned by Andy Spitalny and trained by J. J. Kruljac, is proven routing, as he added blinkers and easily won his maiden going a mile here Jan. 25. Makors Finale and Az Ridge ran one-two in a strong optional claiming mile race here Feb. 3. Makors Finale, owned by Karl C. Krieg 3rd and trained by Valorie Lund, led all the way to win by three lengths in his first route. Az Ridge, owned by the Sawyer Cattle Company and trained by Dan McFarlane, gamely chased that rival all the way around and while unable to get to him finished over seven lengths clear of the others.

Regal Betty heads Oaks

Regal Betty appears the one to beat as she ships in for the Arizona Oaks. A Congrats filly owned by Michael Talla and trained by John Sadler, she won her maiden routing at Del Mar last summer. She’s faced tougher, having run sixth in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf Oct. 2 and fifth in her last start, the Grade 3 Miesque, Nov. 25. My Kentucky Rose is another invader. She won two straight routes at Hawthorne in the fall before finishing fifth and sixth in a pair of grass races at Santa Anita this winter.

The main local hope, is Lasso From El Paso. Owned by Eric Kruljac and Frank and Karen Lewkowitz and trained by J. J. Kruljac, she has run just once here but it was a super performance as she romped in the Arizona Juvenile Filly Dec. 26.