08/01/2001 11:00PM

Surprising fun is 'Joe'


EDMONTON, Alberta - While Fancy As no doubt is the dominant 3-year-old in Alberta and possibly western Canada, a local contender has emerged on the road to the $150,000 Canadian Derby in the form of Sixthirtyjoe.

Sixthirtyjoe, owned and trained by Deanne Davies, has established himself as the No. 1 local threat to Fancy As for the Aug. 25 Canadian Derby.

With Fancy As traveling to Assiniboia Downs for the $100,000 Manitoba Derby Aug. 6, the remainder of the Canadian Derby hopefuls run here in Saturday's $30,000 Count Lathum, and Sixthirtyjoe should be the favorite, although an unlikely one.

Although Sixthirtyjoe initially was intended to be a riding horse, Davies watched him run at the family farm and decided she had to give him a shot at the races. Even though Sixthirtyjoe is exceptionally small and has no breeding to suggest he would ever be in the hunt for a Grade 3 stakes win, Davies is confident he can compete.

"He has a lot of heart," said Davies. "In his last trip he was neck and neck with Fancy As and I think he showed that he's a real competitor. Physically, he may not be as impressive as some of the competition, but he listens well to Reggie [jockey Renaldo Cumberbatch] and he wants to win."

With the smallest stable on the backstretch, which recently grew to two horses, rookie trainer Davies is having the time of her life and has a markedly different attitude than her peers. That, as much as anything, makes Sixthirtyjoe easy to cheer for.

"I'm here to have fun," Davies said. "When [Sixthirtyjoe] won his first race, I didn't even know how much he won."