11/14/2001 1:00AM

Dashin Bye and Feature Mr Jess top Texas Derby


Grade 1 winners Feature Mr Jess and Dashin Bye highlight the trials to the Grade 1 $400,000 Texas Classic Derby on Friday night at Lone Star Park.

The horses with the 10 fastest times in the trials will return for the finals on Nov. 30.

Rainbow Derby winner Feature Mr Jess has made four starts this year - all at Ruidoso Downs for trainer Dwayne "Sleepy" Gilbreath. He has responded with three wins and a third in the Grade 1 All American Derby as the even-money favorite.

Feature Mr Jess's biggest 2001 win is a half-length victory in the Grade 1 $163,237 Rainbow Derby. He defeated Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby winner Whosleavingwho, who was second in the Los Alamitos Derby last weekend, and Grade 2 El Primero Del Ano Derby winner Heza Motor Scooter.

Dashin Bye, owned by Mike Levi, is 4 for 4 this year with a win in the Grade 1 $192,500 Bayer Legend Challenge Championship in his most recent out.

Last year, Dashin Bye was third to champion Eyesa Special and Pivotal Decision in the Grade 1 Texas Classic Futurity.

Pivotal Decision was expected for the Texas Classic Derby trials, but was not entered by trainer John Buchanan. He has dominated the Texas 3-year-old division with 7 wins from 7 starts this year, including two Grade 1 derby wins.

"In his last race, he was running good and then just bolted to the outside. He just started to quit, which he's never done before," Buchanan said. "Two vets looked at him and he tore his left front suspensory. We tried every way to get him ready for the race, but decided it just wouldn't be fair to the horse."

Shining Sky stomps for votes

Shining Sky puts his 6-for-6 record on the line in the trials to the Grade 1 $1 million Texas Classic Futurity on Saturday night at Lone Star Park.

The 10 fastest qualifiers from the trials return on Dec. 1 for the finals.

Shining Sky has been the dominant 2-year-old in Texas with wins in the Grade 1 Retama Park Futurity and the Grade 1 Sam Houston Futurity.

Shining Sky did not venture to Ruidoso Downs for the All American Futurity, the race which carries the most weight in year-end championship voting. Therefore, an undefeated record with a Texas Classic Futurity win would help his championship cause.

Sign of Lanty must carry 128

Champion distance horse Sign of Lanty, owned by Rod and Jackie MacPherson and trained by John Cooper, tries to win the Grade 1 $75,000 Marathon Handicap at Los Alamitos for the third straight year on Saturday night.

Sign of Lanty will carry highweight of 128 pounds. In 1999, he carried 124 pounds to victory and he toted 130 pounds last year.

Since his 1999 Marathon victory, Sign of Lanty has made 15 starts with 13 wins and two seconds. A victory would give Sign of Lanty 13 stakes wins at Los Alamitos and tie him for fourth place on the all-time list with Flight 109.

Ausual Suspect retired

All American Futurity winner Ausual Suspect has been retired and will arrive at Lazy E Ranch in Guthrie, Okla. for stud duty before Dec. 1.

Ausual Suspect was injured during the running of the All American Futurity.

"He just had some chips in his knees," said trainer John Bassett. "We operated on him and he probably could have come back, but we didn't want to risk it."

Ausual Suspect earned $1,003,564 from five starts with four wins and a second-place effort.