05/02/2008 12:00AM

Valdero tops field in tough sprint


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - There is a long way to go before the Grade 3, $250,000 British Columbia Derby runs Sept. 21, but the connections of the horses running in Sunday's feature race at Hastings are hopeful that they have the kind of horses it will take to win the most important race in British Columbia.

The first-level optional $50,000 claiming race over six furlongs for

3-year-olds drew a stellar field, including Desert Alf, who won the $110,000 Jack Diamond Futurity last year.

The race came up so tough that, at best, Desert Alf figures to be the third or fourth choice in the wagering.

A Florida-bred colt by Johannesburg, Valdero will likely be favored in his first start at Hastings. Purchased for $300,000 out of an Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. sale as a

2-year-old last year, Valdero began his career with a win in a statebred maiden special weight race for trainer Todd Pletcher at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 11. He finished a distant second in a first-level allowance for Florida-breds Feb. 9 and then faded after showing speed in his first try at a middle distance on turf March 1.

After his latest start, Valdero was purchased by Glen Todd and Patrick Kinsella and moved to trainer Troy Taylor's barn. Taylor was the leading trainer at Hastings last year and is off to a strong start again this year.

Mario Gutierrez, who has won half of his 14 mounts at the meet, rides Valdero.

Tigerheat ships in from Santa Anita, where he won a 1 1/8-mile maiden special weight race on turf March 2.

Right Honorable and Krazy Koffee were both impressive winners of maiden special weight races in their final starts in 2007 and have trained forwardly this spring.