02/16/2012 2:41PM

Turf Paradise: Derive goes for five in a row in Phoenix Gold Cup


PHOENIX – Once upon a time in Southern California, Derive looked destined for big things. Alas, this fairy tale hasn’t come out the way Derive’s connections had hoped, but Saturday’s $75,000 Phoenix Gold Cup gives Derive a chance to bring about a happy ending and prove he is the best sprinter on the grounds.

A field of 10 is slated for the six-furlong Gold Cup – the marquee event of the Turf Paradise meet – which goes as race 7 on a card that also features the $35,000 Turf Paradise Handicap and $35,000 Sun City Handicap.

Derive, owned by Rick Wiest and trained by Robertino Diodoro, soured in Southern California last spring. Diodoro claimed him for $32,000 at Santa Anita last March 27, and after a fifth-place finish at Hollywood Park on May 6, he sent Derive to Northlands Park. The horse perked up a bit with a pair of thirds in three starts, but it wasn’t until he came here in the fall that the light went on.

Derive, 6, is a perfect 4 for 4 this meet. His first win came over allowance foes and his next two over claiming rivals, but it was his Jan. 28 win in the Swift Stakes that stamped him the favorite for the Gold Cup. Under Jorge Carreno, he bounced out of the gate and led all the way to win. Saratoga Boot and Absolutely Cool, rivals on Saturday, finished second and third. Carreno has the call again.

Saratoga Boot is the 122-pound highweight for owner Gary Hughes and trainer Mike Chambers. He won an allowance race on this main track Dec. 10 and then posted a 14-1 upset in the Cotton Fitzsimmons on grass here Jan. 14. Both of those were routes, but he showed his sprint ability when he was beaten three-quarters of a length by Derive in the Swift.

Hezamazing is a potential upsetter. A 7-year-old, he won the Hank Mills Sr. on dirt here Dec. 17 and returns to dirt after fading to eighth in the Fitzsimmons. Ducky Drake, a 10-year-old multiple stakes winner, invades from Sunland off a second against optional claimers Feb. 10. He ran second in the 2009 Gold Cup behind Southern California raider Peace Chant.

Sun City: Glendale rematch

Rare Sunset, Hard Seven and Sweetsomerwine, the top three finishers from the Glendale Handicap on grass here Jan. 28, knock heads again in the Sun City.

The mile grass event drew a field of nine fillies and mares, and Rare Sunset, the 125-pound highweight, figures to go favored for owner Canadian Sunshine Stable and trainer Miguel Silva. The 7-year-old mare has won 4 of her last 5 and is 5 for 8 on this grass course.

Turf Paradise: All Saint defends

All Saint, last year’s horse of the meet here, returns to defend his title in the Turf Paradise Handicap. The 1 1/16-mile grass event drew a field of seven 3-year-olds and up.

All Saint won four straight stakes here last season, including a 1 1/2-length win in this race when it was washed off the turf. All Saint is a stakes winner on turf, so the surface is no bother.

He hasn’t won since taking the Wildcat Handicap here last April 2, but was second in the Walter R. Cluer on this course Oct. 29 and fourth in the Fitzsimmons.

Eldaafer ships in off a seventh in the Grade 3 Native Diver at Hollywood Park Dec. 3. He won the Breeders’ Cup Marathon in 2010 and has competed in Grade 1 company.