01/06/2005 12:00AM

Turf Paradise: Invaders look tough

Email

Few things made Cotton Fitzsimmons happier than beating the Los Angeles Lakers.

So it's only fitting that in the race renamed in honor of Fitzsimmons, the late former coach and executive of the Phoenix Suns and a fixture at the Turf Paradise turf club, some tough Southern California invaders will line up against the Phoenix contingent.

Saturday's $50,000 Cotton Fitzsimmons Mile, formerly named the Paradise Mile and a key prep for the $150,000 Turf Paradise Breeders' Cup Handicap next month, has lured a strong field of 11. If the heavy rain of the past week continues, however, the race may have to come off the turf.

Two Southern Californians, both from the Neil Drysdale barn, are the highweights. Golden Arrow (124 pounds) most recently finished a closing fourth in the Grade 3 Hollywood Turf Express behind 2003 Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Cajun Beat. That 5 1/2-furlong trip is probably a bit short of his preferred distance, as his previous form at a mile was strong, including a third in the Wickerr Handicap at Del Mar in the summer. Mick Ruis has the call.

Grafton (123) may not be as accomplished as his stablemate but is dangerous nonetheless. He was last seen finishing third in a stakes for Florida-breds at Calder. Prior to that, he was a strong second in a high-priced optional claimer at a mile on the Santa Anita turf. Danny Sorenson has the call.

Grimm heads the local contingent at 119 pounds. Grimm, trained by Eric Kruljac, recently returned after nearly three months off and scored a strong win in the Cactus Wren sprinting on the dirt. Grimm has spent the majority of his time at that game but has proved more than capable on the turf and at this trip. He was a close fourth in this race a year ago. Scott Stevens rides.

Pure is another Southern Californian, but one who has local ties. The 4-year-old gelding, trained by Troy Bainum, comes off a dull fourth at Santa Anita on Dec. 30, but that race was washed off the turf onto a wet main track.