10/03/2012 1:21PM

Turf Paradise: Meet opener ends drought for Arizona horsemen and horseplayers


PHOENIX – With Yavapai Downs having closed and no live racing to bridge the gap between Turf Paradise meets, it’s been a long dry spell this summer for Arizona horsemen and horseplayers. So you can understand the enthusiasm that greets the opening of the 2012-2013 Turf Paradise season on Friday. The 156-day meet runs through May 7, 2013.

“We expect another year of increased attendance as we get ready to welcome back our old friends and greet new fans,” said general manager Vince Francia. “When the season ended in May it began a long, lonely dry spell for local horse racing fans. The wait is almost over.”

Francia said the stable area is at its 2,100-horse capacity.

“The key to this season’s success will be to keep our fields as full as possible,” he said.

Turf Paradise has added a a $1 pick six to the betting menu.

Jorge Carreno, leading rider during the 2011-2012 stand, is back to defend his title. He tied for fourth at Fairplex last month with 13 wins, three of those coming in stakes. Other familiar faces in the jockeys’ room will include Anne Von Rosen, Glenn Corbett, Geovanni Franco, Vicky Baze, Jake Barton, David Lopez, Wilson Dieguez, Tammi Piermarini, Kelly Bridge, Dennis Collins, Lori Keith, and Scott Stevens.

Miguel Silva, the leading trainer from the 2011-2012 meet, will defend his title against the usual suspects: Robertino Diodoro, Mike Chambers, Molly Pearson, David Van Winkle, Dan McFarlane, Jeffrey Metz, Timothy Gleason, Bart Hone, and Philip Hall.

Bienvenidos: Field of 11 entered

The $35,000 Bienvenidos, the traditional opening-day event, drew a well-matched field of 11 going 6 1/2 furlongs on the dirt main track. Favoritism may fall to the consistent Streakin’ Mohican.

A 5-year-old gelding owned by Rosette Racing LLC and trained by Bill Brashears, Streakin’ Mohican has never raced here but he’s already handled Churchill Downs dirt, Hollywood turf, Del Mar turf, Parx turf, Keeneland turf, Santa Anita dirt, Arapahoe dirt, and Zia dirt, so odds are he’ll handle this track. A winner of 9 of 33 starts, he comes here sharp, having finished second, beaten a head, in the Premier Cup at Zia Park on Sept. 9.

Streakin’ Mohican has held his form since he romped in a turf sprint for $32,000 claimers at Betfair at Hollywood Park on April 28 and was claimed by Brashears. He then easily won the Arapahoe Sprint on June 3 and ran third to multiple stakes winner Hezamazing in the Front Range there July 1. Streakin’ Mohican didn’t race again until Aug. 18, when he finished second at Arapahoe.

He will be ridden Friday by Ry Eikleberry.

There was a time when Atta Boy Roy would have been a heavy favorite in a race like the Bienvenidos. A 7-year-old trained by Valorie Lund, he once competed in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint and has won 13 races.

Atta Boy Roy hasn’t raced since Dec. 17, when he dueled for the lead and faded to fifth in the Hank Mills Sr. Handicap here. He’s worked splendidly at Canterbury Park and Turf Paradise, firing bullets in four of his last six drills. Scott Stevens rides.

Trainer Mike Chambers sends out Northwest raider Saratoga Boot, winner of the Cotton Fitzsimmons here last Jan. 12. While that was a turf route, he’s proven he can sprint on dirt, having finished third in the Phoenix Gold Cup here Feb. 18. Saratoga Boot comes off a pair of last-place finishes in Emerald Downs allowance sprints, but has run some of his best races at Turf Paradise.