03/22/2012 11:25AM

Turf Paradise: Derive looks to cap big meet in Coyote Handicap


PHOENIX – Five straight wins this meet, including the meet’s marquee event, have pretty much sewn up horse of the meet honors at Turf Paradise for Derive. The 6-year-old gelding, however, won’t sit on his laurels as he looks to put a cherry on top of his meet in Saturday’s $35,000 Coyote Handicap.

The 123-pound highweight, Derive hasn’t scared off the opposition as nine are lined up to face him in the 6 1/2-furlong event.

Owned by Rick Wiest and trained by Robertino Diodoro, Derive wasn’t nearly as sharp in early 2011. He ran a couple decent races at Northlands Park last summer, finishing third in back-to-back starts. It all changed, however, when he came to the Phoenix track.

Derive whipped allowance foes Oct. 15 to close out his 2011 campaign. He won for $10,000 here Jan. 2 and then for $12,500 here Jan. 14. Off that race, Diodoro decided to send Derive into deeper waters, and he easily won the 5 1/2-furlong Swift Jan. 28. He then went to the meet’s top race, the $75,000 Phoenix Gold Cup. Under regular rider Jorge Carreno, Derive dueled on the lead all the way around and gamely prevailed by a nose in the six-furlong fixture.

Carreno stays aboard for the Coyote, and while Derive is just 1 for 5 at this distance, he has won going both shorter and longer.

Derive’s main problem may be Absolutely Cool, who is trained by Valorie Lund. Absolutely Cool was second in this race last year and comes here just as sharp.

The 5-year-old Absolutely Cool ran third in the Swift, beaten four lengths by Derive, and then dueled every step of the way with Derive in the Phoenix Gold Cup before going down by a nose. Wilson Dieguez rides at 118 pounds.

Other contenders include Trip the General, who comes off an allowance win here March 3; Lord Avalon, an 8-year-old who won two straight at Santa Anita and comes off a third against optional claimers here Feb. 12; Danzip, second to Trip the General in that March 3 sprint, his first race in 15 months; and the Diodoro-trained Mark the General, who has won his two starts here since coming from Southern California.