10/18/2007 12:00AM

Classy pair face sharp challengers

EmailVANCOUVER, British Columbia - Alabama Rain was good enough to win the Grade 3 Canadian Derby in 2005 and he has amassed earnings of almost $500,000. But he hasn't won since he dead-heated with Eternal Secrecy in a $40,000 optional race at Northlands Park in August of 2006, and he'll be running for a claming price for the first time when he faces five older horses in an optional $35,000 claimer at Hastings Saturday.

Alabama Rain and French Roast stand out from a class perspective in the 1 1/16-mile race, but both are coming off of layoffs. Chile's Quest and Tango Mango are very sharp right now and could have an edge.

Alabama Rain, who is trained by Lance Giesbrecht, hasn't raced since finishing fourth in a $40,000 optional race at Northlands Park Aug. 17. Alabama Rain has been working smartly for his return and if he runs close to his best race he should be tough to beat. Dave Wilson rides Alabama Rain.

Trained by Troy Taylor, French Roast is coming off of a fifth-place finish in the B.C. Cup Sprint Aug. 6 and he is capable winning when he's fresh. French Roast won a $35,000 optional sprint off of an eight-month layoff earlier this year and he came right back to win a similar race at this distance June 17. His jockey, Mario Gutierrez will likely put him right on the lead.

Chile's Quest came from well back to edge Tango Mango in a $35,000 optional sprint Oct. 7, and both horses have won going 1 1/16 miles.