08/28/2005 12:00AM

Alabama Rain best in Canadian Derby


EDMONTON, Alberta - It was ultra-sweet for Vancouver trainer Lance Giesbrecht to return to his long-ago home track and achieve his long-time dream of winning the $300,000 Canadian Derby with Alabama Rain here Saturday.

Alabama Rain, opening up in the stretch, won by 4.75 lengths over 20-1 Ding Dong Dandy, who finished a neck ahead of Alberta Derby champion Knight's Covenant.

Alabama Rain, who earned $189,000, was sent off as a slight 2-1 favorite over Ontario invader Out From Africa.

Out From Africa gained a challenging position turning for home, then found the 1 3/8 miles too far and faltered to sixth.

Pedestrian early fractions of :25 and :50.4 resulted in the field of 11 bunching up, creating plenty of traffic problems.

Jake Barton, recruited from Vancouver to ride Out From Africa, did his best to pin down Alabama Rain with nowhere to go but said he "didn't have enough horse."

Pedro Alvarado, aboard Alabama Rain, refused to panic.

"I had a lot of horse under me and when I let a couple of them go, it gave me enough room to get out of trouble," said Alvarado. "I knew I had the best horse."

Giesbrecht had shipped Alabama Rain here two weeks ago to prepare for the Canadian Derby.

"I came here early so that he could become acclimatized," said Giesbrecht "He became a different horse, put on weight and we gained confidence."

Alabama Rain could make his next start in the $250,000 British Columbia Derby on Sept. 24.