09/29/2010 12:22PM

Turf Paradise opens meet with full barns


PHOENIX – As a long stretch of hot temperatures in the Phoenix area begins to subside, a long stretch of racing is set to commence as Turf Paradise opens its doors Friday for its 2010-2011 season.

The 156-day meet runs through May 8, 2011, with racing scheduled five days a week, Friday through Tuesday. The meet opens with a nine-race program.

Last season the Phoenix track had to weather the storm, figuratively and literally. One storm came in the form of a troubled economy. Another was the heavy rain over the winter, which resulted in the scrapping of a number of cards. Still, the meet went well, and acting general manager Vince Francia is hoping for another good one.

“The essentials for a great meet are in place: a full stable area of 2,200 horses and a surge in attendance at our OTBs and on track leading up to the live race meet,” he said.

Jerry Simms, in his 11th year as owner of Turf Paradise, echoes the optimism: “The future has never been brighter.”

Francia, who takes over the post left vacant when Eugene Joyce, general manager for the last five seasons, resigned after the last meet, noted the addition of a pick five with a carryover. The 50-cent wager will be on races 5-9.

Francia also noted some refinement to the main track – fine grain sand has been added to try and avoid the dirt clods resulting from rain.

Racing secretary Shawn Swartz has his hands full, with horses representing 190 trainers on the grounds. While the bulk of those are regulars, 33 new horsemen, primarily from Canada and Texas, also requested stall space.

“Our recruitment efforts in Canada over the past two years have paid off,” said Swartz, who also noted that reduced dates in Texas prompted some horsemen there to look to race at Turf Paradise.

* Seven are entered in the opening-day $25,000 Bienvenidos Stakes, a mile main-track event for 3-year-olds and upward. Hezamazing comes off a string of good races but is stuck with the outside post 7. romped by 9 3/4 lengths in the Arapahoe Classic Aug. 15 and comes off a fine second in the Ruidoso Thoroughbred Championship Sept. 5.

Warren’s Jack V. won Yavapai’s Mile-Hi Handicap Aug. 29, sitting way back and coming with a big late run to get the neck win at 25-1.

Stormy Seattle was third in the Mile-Hi, just a neck behind Warren’s Jack V. He was slow into stride and very wide that day, but can be forwardly placed.