12/06/2012 2:12PM

Turf Paradise: Derive faces tough opposition in Caballos del Sol

Coady Photography
Derive will put his perfect record at Turf Paradise on the line in the Caballos del Sol.

PHOENIX – Derive thinks he owns Turf Paradise. You can’t blame the 6-year-old gelding either, as he’s a perfect 7 for 7 over the Phoenix track, six of those wins coming during the 2011-12 meet, including three stakes. His dominance made him an easy choice for horse of the meet.

Well, that ownership figures to get tested Saturday as some of the other best sprinters on the grounds take their shot at the reigning kingpin in the $35,000 Caballos del Sol. The six-furlong event drew a crack field of eight.

Despite the competitive nature of the event, there’s no doubt Derive is the horse to beat. Owned by Rick Wiest and trained by Robertino Diodoro, Derive, a son of Cozzene, counted among his six wins here during the 2011-12 meet the Swift, Phoenix Gold Cup, and Coyote Handicap. After his stellar season, he shipped to Santa Anita on April 19 but was no factor when he ran seventh in a very tough optional claiming sprint. Diodoro opted to regroup, and it worked. The veteran didn’t resurface until Oct. 22 at the start of this meet and got right back on track, dueling early and then edging away to win an optional claiming sprint. He has continued to work strongly since, and Jorge Carreno, who has been his pilot during this long stretch of good form, stays aboard.

But Derive may be running into a rejuvenated Atta Boy Roy. The 7-year-old ridgling was once good enough to try the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint and faced many of the country’s best sprinters for a couple seasons. He faded to fifth in the Hank Mills Sr. here last Dec. 17 and was then gone for 10 months, and you had to worry when he came back to be dull when he was 10th in the Bienvenidos here Oct. 5. He perked up some to finish fourth behind Derive and Saturday foe Rainier Ice in that Oct. 22 sprint here, but was no threat in the lane. Then came another optional claimer here Nov. 16, however, and it looked like the old boy was back. He bounced out to a clear lead and extended his advantage from there, romping home by 6 3/4 lengths, winning geared down and earning a 98 Beyer Speed Figure. That equals the best figure ever posted by Derive.

Owned by REV Racing and trained by Valorie Lund, Atta Boy Roy is certainly scary if that indeed is a sign he is back to top form. Daniel Vergara is aboard.

Absolutely Cool makes his first start in almost nine months, and his best can threaten. Owned by Karl Krieg and, like Atta Boy Roy, trained by Lund, he showed plenty of quality here during the 2011-12 meet. He was a sharp second in this race before running third in the Swift (behind Derive), second in the Phoenix Gold Cup (beaten only a nose by Derive), and third in the Coyote (beaten by Derive). He has worked superbly for his return. Gallyn Mitchell rides.