10/05/2007 11:00PM

Desert Alf a maiden on way up

EmailVANCOUVER, British Columbia - It's tough to separate the contenders from the pretenders in the $100,000 Jack Diamond Futurity at Hastings on Monday. The 6 1/2-furlong feature drew nine juvenile colts and geldings, and none of them has won a stakes race.

Desert Alf, a maiden, made a strong impression when he finished second in a 3 1/2-furlong maiden special weight race in his debut on Aug. 24. In his second start he came close to winning the CTHS Sales Stakes, checking in a length behind Star Prospector. Trained by Ned Sams, Desert Alf is a half-brother to B.C. Derby winner Spaghetti Mouse. Sams likes the way he's coming into the futurity.

"He's a big, strong horse," said Sams. "He's actually bigger than Spaghetti Mouse already, and he didn't start until August because he was growing so much."

Sams was impressed with Desert Alf's bullet five-furlong move in 1:00.20 on Sept. 23.

"He finished strongly and then galloped out in 1:12 and change," said Sams. "He's really doing well right now."

Frank Fuentes rides Desert Alf.

The possible favorite is Freequartersmine, who is coming off an easy front-running win in an allowance race Sept. 22. The same connections, trainer Toni Cloutier and owners Mike Boylan and T D Stables, won the futurity last year with Ookashada, who was a maiden going into the race.

Mario Gutierrez rides Freequartersmine.