08/30/2007 11:00PM

Separate Bet in championship bid


RUIDOSO, N.M. - Separate Bet will try to conclude a perfect summer at Ruidoso Downs in Sunday's Grade 1, $504,000 All American Derby. During the meet, Separate Bet has risen from being eligible for nonwinners-of-three races to a top prospect for world champion honors.

The gelding joined the stable of five-time national champion Paul Jones following winter knee surgery and has responded with four wins in as many starts, highlighted by a win in the Grade 1, $448,000 Rainbow Derby and a track-record performance at 400 yards.

Separate Bet set the track record in his seasonal debut on June 15, when he won by 3 1/4 lengths in 19.18 seconds.

"We expected him to do well, but I don't think you ever expect an effort like that," Jones said.

The Rainbow Derby was billed as a confrontation between Separate Bet and Grade 1, $1 million Texas Classic Futurity winner Valiant Hero, but Separate Bet won by 2 3/4 lengths. He returned to win his All American Derby trial with Valiant Hero finishing third. Separate Bet's time of 20.994 seconds for 440 yards was the quickest time from four trials.

"He's really doing great and doing well," Jones said. "We just gotta run one more."

The winner of the All American Derby receives an invitation to the Grade 1, $1 million Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos on Dec. 8. Jones said Separate Bet will join his Los Alamitos stable regardless of his All American Derby finish.

"We're after the Champion of Champions, and it would be a lot easier if he gets an invitation here," Jones said.

Separate Bet will start from the post 6 and have regular rider Freddie Martinez up.

A pair of familiar rivals, Dont Let Down and Valiant Hero, are back for another run at Separate Bet. Dont Let Down and Valiant Hero finished second and third behind Separate Bet in the trials, earning the second- and third-fastest qualifying times.

Dont Let Down won the 2006 Grade 1 Dash for Cash Futurity and was second to Valiant Hero in the Grade 1 Heritage Place Derby.

Valiant Hero was the even-money favorite in the Rainbow Derby over Separate Bet after winning the Heritage Place Derby and the Texas Classic Futurity.

"We haven't beat him yet," said Valiant Hero's trainer, Mike Joiner. "But, we're back for one more."