10/16/2014 10:00AM

Turf Paradise opens meet, to offer phone betting

Coady Photography
Absolutely Cool, winning last season's Phoenix Gold Cup, makes his 17th consecutive start in a stakes in Saturday's Bienvenidos.

Turf Paradise will literally be dialed in this year. On Saturday, the Phoenix track opens for its 59th meet, and among the changes from last year is the launch of telephone account wagering on both local and simulcast races.

The $35,000 Bienvenidos Stakes, a 6 1/2-furlong event for 3-year-olds an up, kicks off the 144-day stand, which runs through May 5. Southern California raider Bull Dozer and defending champ Absolutely Cool lead a field of eight.

In an effort to boost field and purse sizes, Turf Paradise has shortened the meet slightly and plans to limit programs to eight races. Racing will be conducted primarily five days a week, Saturdays through Wednesdays.

Phone wagering, legalized this year in Arizona, allows patrons who can’t make it to the track or an offtrack facility to partake in the action. General manager Vince Francia said he hopes to have the system up and running by the end of October.

“We know it’s going to be good for us and our horsemen,” he said. “We just don’t know how good.”

In the Bienvenidos, invader Bull Dozer may go favored. A veteran campaigner in the Midwest, the 6-year-old Bull Dozer has 16 wins in 45 starts. He shipped to California with trainer Bret Calhoun and promptly won an optional claimer at Del Mar on Aug. 15. That was enough to earn a shot in the Pirate’s Bounty there Sept. 3. He finished last of five but was beaten just three lengths.

Bull Dozer moved back in against optional claimers at Santa Anita on Sept. 28, and after a slow start, he ran on well for fourth. He was claimed that day by Robertino Diodoro for $62,500.

Jorge Carreno rides Bull Dozer on Saturday.

Absolutely Cool, 7, has been a sprint-stakes fixture here for years. Trained by Valorie Lund, Absolutely Cool won this race last year and a few months later posted the biggest win of his career when he captured the Phoenix Gold Cup, the meet’s marquee event.

Absolutely Cool has not raced since running third in the Governor’s Handicap at Emerald Downs on May 18. Ry Bowen rides on Saturday.

Key contenders

Bull Dozer (Last 3 Beyers: 85-82-90)

◗ Makes his first start here but has run well at Churchill Downs, Keeneland, Oaklawn Park, Del Mar, and Santa Anita.

◗ Finished not far behind some graded-stakes-quality runners in the Pirate’s Bounty.

◗ Trainer Diodoro won this race in 2011 and 2012.

Absolutely Cool (Last 3 Beyers: 93-70-94)

◗ Pressed the pace before going on to victory in this race last year, coming off a layoff similar to the one he comes off this time.

◗ He figures to bide his time and come with a late run.

◗ Makes his 17th consecutive stakes appearance.

Storm Power (Last 3 Beyers: 74-83-76)

◗ Broke slowly but ran on for fourth against some talented optional claimers at Santa Anita on Sept. 28.

◗ Showed more speed in his prior outings, so he may be more forwardly placed here.

◗ Gives trainer Diodoro a second starter in the race.

◗ By Grade 2 winner Tiz Wonderful, he cost $200,000 at auction.