02/09/2006 1:00AM

Western Act must handle two Southern Cal invaders


PHOENIX - The surging Western Act faces two strong invaders as he goes for his third straight victory at the meet in Saturday's $75,000 Turf Paradise Handicap.

The marquee race of the meet, the Turf Paradise Handicap is at 1 1/16 miles on the turf and has attracted a field of 12. It is the highlight of a 10-race program that also includes the $75,000 Turf Paradise Derby. The $75,000 Arizona Oaks was supposed to be run Saturday, but was scrapped because it did not fill.

has blossomed in recent months. Owned by Cory Kellogg and Doyle Huber, he won the Da Hoss on the turf here as a 3-year-old last April. More recently, he has won two straight starts at Turf Paradise, stalking the pace and defeating 3-year-olds in the Last Chance Derby here Dec. 31, then blowing away a strong field in the Cotton Fitzsimmons Handicap on Jan. 7. Among the horses he beat in the Fitzsimmons were Strategically and Aza, both of whom are in against him again on Saturday.

Trained by Kellogg, Western Act has worked strongly since his last race. Carl Williams will ride at 117 pounds.

Two Southern California invaders are significant obstacles. One is Capitano, the highweight at 122 pounds for owner Vicken Meguerditchian and trainer Thomas Bell II. Capitano won the Rolling Green Handicap at Golden Gate last June, then was overmatched in the Grade 2 American Handicap at Hollywood Park July 3. He didn't race again until Dec. 28, when sixth at Santa Anita behind the multiple graded-stakes winner The Tin Man.

perked up some in his last start, finishing a close fourth behind Terroplane at Santa Anita Jan. 20. Jon Court comes in for the ride.

, tabbed second in the weights at 121 pounds, invades from Southern California for trainer Gary Mandella. He finished seventh in his last race, the Grade 3 Native Diver Handicap on dirt at Hollywood Dec. 10, but before that he was a close fourth in the Grade 3 Carleton F. Burke on the turf at Oak Tree. David Cohen has the call.

Strategically, 6, has been a beast since he was claimed by trainer Jerry Atkin for owner May Shoemaker over a year and a half ago. He rattled off four straight wins this meet, ran third to Western Act (and was moved up to second via disqualification) in the Fitzsimmons, then was second to Actxecutive in the Predictable on Jan. 24. He totes 120 pounds, and might be at his best on this course.