Updated on 09/18/2011 12:51AM

New, improved Desert Wheat can get job done

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GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Desert Wheat is a stronger, more versatile colt than he was last year, and that only adds to his appeal on Saturday when he heads a field of eight in the $75,000 Grand Prairie Turf Challenge at Lone Star Park.

The one-mile turf race for 3-year-olds is one of two stakes supporting the Grade 3, $300,000 Texas Mile. The other is the $50,000 JEH Stallion Station for fillies and mares bred in Texas.

is a stakes winner at the distance, having captured the $50,000 Gentilly over the Louisiana Downs turf course last November. In that race, he closed from 11 lengths back, but in his most recent start, he raced closer to the pace than usual and was a four-length winner of a second-level allowance at Lone Star on April 14.

The race was a career effort for Desert Wheat, who earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 91.

"He really did it easy," said Tony Richey, who trains Desert Wheat for Jerry Lee. "He's always been a horse that's laid back, always came from last or next to last, but he's matured now and the other day at about the half-mile pole he'd already run up to the pack, kind of stalking them, and then he just kind of went on.

"He's getting a little more muscle, a little more power to him, so he's starting to gear up a little earlier."

Desert Wheat drew post 2 for the Turf Challenge and Jamie Theriot will ride.

has registered both of his wins on turf, and will return to the grass after finishing third to Wanna Runner last out in the $600,000 WinStar Derby at Sunland Park. Garrett Gomez has the mount on Belligerence, who is coupled with Wait in Line. Both horses are owned by Frontier Stables and trained by Chris Hartman.

, an allowance winner at a mile on turf and a stakes winner at a mile on dirt, adds depth to the field. Trainer Mike Neatherlin has given the mount to Quincy Hamilton.

The Turf Challenge will go as the ninth race, with the Texas Mile set to go as the 10th. The stakes action on Saturday will start in the seventh with the JEH, a 6 1/2-furlong race led by rivals Dodd and Expectant Diva, who finished one-two in the $40,000 Houston Ladies.

The forecast for Saturday is partly cloudy and a high of 76 degrees.