03/21/2013 1:42PM

Turf Paradise: Phoenix Gold Cup's top trio clash again in Coyote Handicap


PHOENIX – It’s not often you get, in essence, to rerun the best race of the meet. But Saturday’s $35,000 Coyote Handicap at Turf Paradise does just that as the one-two-three finishers from the meet’s marquee event, the Phoenix Gold Cup on Feb. 16, go at it once more in this 6 1/2-furlong race. Eight of the best sprinters on the grounds are entered.

L.A. Weekend, trained by Robertino Diodoro, has come of age this meet. The 5-year-old L.A. Weekend had done good work in Southern California, including winning on turf at Del Mar, on Betfair at Hollywood Park’s synthetic track, and on dirt at Fairplex. After his form tailed off in the fall, he shipped to Sunland Park and romped in an optional claimer Jan. 12. The horse he easily beat back into second, Streakin’ Mohican, came here and won the Swift Stakes next time out.

From there it was a shot at the Phoenix Gold Cup and L.A. Weekend more than proved up to the challenge. Under Geovanni Franco, he dueled through sizzling splits, opened up into the lane, and had enough to keep hard-charging Absolutely Cool at bay to win by a length. It was very much a bittersweet win, however, for owner Rick Wiest and Diodoro as Derive, who won the Phoenix Gold Cup for them in 2012, broke down and had to be euthanized.

Absolutely Cool has been competing with the best sprinters here the past few seasons. The 6-year-old Absolutely Cool ran second, beaten just a nose by Derive, in the 2012 Phoenix Gold Cup. In the last two runnings of the Coyote, he was second and third. This year, he rallied from far back to be third to Streakin’ Mohican in the Swift on Feb. 1, and then finished strongly to again be second in the Gold Cup.

Memo to Mya rallied for third in the Gold Cup for trainer Robert Hazel, though the 5-year-old gelding wasn’t really a threat as he was beaten 5 1/2 lengths by L.A. Weekend and 4 1/2 lengths by Absolutely Cool. Streakin’ Mohican, impressive winner of the Swift, dueled early with L.A. Weekend in the Gold Cup before giving way, finishing sixth. He’s capable of better and boasts a super 46.60-second bullet four-furlong work here since for trainer Bill Brashears.