01/30/2013 2:01PM

Turf Paradise: Swift matches familiar rivals in Derive and Absolutely Cool

Coady Photography
Derive's last stakes win came in the Coyote in March (above).

PHOENIX – Friday’s clash between top local sprinters Derive and Absolutely Cool in the $35,000 Swift was delayed a few days, but judging by their previous meetings it will be worth the wait. The Swift was originally scheduled for last Saturday, but was postponed when that card was scrapped after heavy rains made the track unsuitable for racing.

It should be quite a meeting as the two knock heads again in the 5 1/2-furlong event for 3-year-olds and up. Derive, last year’s horse of the meet after compiling an impressive 6-for-6 local mark, looked on his way to another superb Turf Paradise meet, but after an initial win in the fall he’s been defeated in his last two starts. That means Friday’s renewal is by no means the slam dunk it might once have been considered. Nonetheless, Derive is the one to beat as he defends his title against Absolutely Cool and seven others. The Swift is the main stepping-stone to the meet’s marquee event, the Phoenix Gold Cup on Feb. 16.

Owned by Rick Wiest and trained by Robertino Diodoro, Derive, a 7-year-old gelding, dominated the 2011-2012 meet, with his wins including this race as well as the Phoenix Gold Cup and Coyote handicaps. After finishing seventh at Santa Anita last spring he got a vacation and came back firing to easily win an optional claiming sprint here Oct. 22. Sent off at even-money in the Dec. 8 Caballos del Sol, he dueled for the lead from the start and lost a heartbreaking nose decision to Absolutely Cool. He came back in another optional claimer here Jan. 4 and again finished second as the 1-2 favorite. Regular rider Jorge Carreno stays up.

Absolutely Cool finished behind Derive three times during the 2011-2012 meet. After running third in the Coyote, the 6-year-old Absolutely Cool was sidelined until the Dec. 8 Caballos del Sol. He bided his time in that race and then finished gamely to beat Derive by a nose. Geovanni Franco rides Absolutely Cool, who is owned by Karl Krieg and trained by Valorie Lund.

It’s not just a two-horse race. Atta Boy Roy was fourth behind the top two in the Caballos del Sol, and once upon a time competed against Grade 1 company. Call Me Jones may be a dangerous upstart. After being claimed for $10,000 at Del Mar last summer he’s come here and posted romping wins in his first two local starts.