03/17/2011 11:47AM

Turf Paradise: Lack of turf experience muddles picture for Tempe, Scottsdale


PHOENIX – The question for both the $25,000 Tempe Handicap and $25,000 Scottsdale Handicap at Turf Paradise on Saturday is the same: Can the favorites handle turf?

The two fixtures, both for 3-year-olds, represent a first crack at grass for the main protagonists. The Tempe Handicap, for 3-year-olds, is at a mile on the turf, drew a field of 12, and goes as race 8. The Scottsdale is also at a mile on the turf, but is for 3-year-old fillies, and lured eight as race 5.

In the Tempe, Arcadian, trained by Dan McFarlane, may well go favored despite making his first start on grass. He has been one of the top 3-year-old males here – on dirt. He romped in the Lost in the Fog Juvenile on Dec. 26, ran sixth in Santa Anita’s San Pedro Jan. 17, won a strong allowance route here Feb. 5, and then dueled and faded to seventh in the Turf Paradise Derby on Feb. 26. The good news is he has worked strongly since – posting a five-furlong bullet in 58.80 seconds on March 14 – to indicate there are no ill effects from that Turf Paradise Derby run, and regular rider Ry Eikleberry keeps the call.

There is some proven turf form against him, though. Cactus Breeze easily beat maidens in his only grass start, on this course Nov. 5. Doc Can Dance likewise won his only grass start easily over maidens here Jan. 28, and Whiskey Row likewise easily beat maidens in his only grass try Jan. 8.

It’s a similar story in the Scottsdale. The one-two-three finishers from the Arizona Oaks on the main track – Miss Buxley, Joe Ja, and Los Lunas – run into each other again here, but none of the three has ever tried turf. Miss Buxley, trained by Robertino Diodoro, began her career in Southern California. Diodoro claimed her for $20,000 off a fourth at Santa Anita on Jan. 7, shipped her here for the Oaks, and saw her duel and draw away to easily win by four lengths at 11-1. That shows she has quality and can route, and if she can transfer that to turf, look out. Jorge Carreno is aboard again.

Joe Ja likewise started her career in Southern California, easily winning her dirt sprint debut at Santa Anita on Jan. 29. She came here and rallied for second in the Arizona Oaks, which was pretty nice considering it was her first start against winners and first route. She gets blinkers for this first grass try and jockey Glenn Corbett.

Los Lunas was the 3-5 favorite in the Arizona Oaks after winning her first two starts here at the end of last year, both stakes. She dueled in the Arizona Oaks before fading to third behind Miss Buxley and Joe Ja. She’s bred for turf, though. Jake Barton rides.

Three of the eight in the field have tried turf, but none of them has won. The best turf race came from Trick Skate who rallied for second, beaten just a neck, in a $10,000 claimer going a mile here Jan. 18.