07/18/2007 11:00PM

Valiant Hero streak gets test

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Valiant Hero faces the strongest competition of his career when he tries for his fifth straight win in the Grade 1, $447,230 Rainbow Derby, the richest running in 20 years, on Saturday afternoon at Ruidoso Downs.

A $500,000 yearling purchase at the 2005 Ruidoso select Quarter Horse yearling sale, Valiant Hero has proven to be a bargain with $571,431 in earnings and a Grade 1 win in the $1 million Texas Classic Futurity. That race, run on Dec. 2 at Lone Star Park, started his winning streak.

Since then, he has won the Grade 2 Heritage Place Derby at Remington Park and set the fastest qualifying time to the Rainbow Derby when he easily won his trial in 21.129 seconds for 440 yards.

"He broke well and I went after him left-handed to get him going," jockey G.R. Carter Jr. said. "We just coasted home."

Five-time defending national training champion Paul Jones will saddle five horses in the Rainbow Derby, headed by recent track record-setter Separate Bet. The gelding returned from an eight-month layoff June 15 to lower the 400-yard track record to 19.18 seconds with an allowance victory.

"I expected him to do well, but I don't think you ever expect a performance like that," Jones said.

Separate Bet, who finished eighth at 4-1 odds in last year's $1.9 million All American Futurity, backed up that track record with a Rainbow Derby trial win by 2 1/4 lengths in 21.228 seconds, the third-fastest qualifying time.

Jones also will send out The Crawfish, who qualified for two $1 million futurities at Los Alamitos, and three horses who raced in the Grade 1 Ruidoso Derby - runner-up La Lalique, fourth-place finisher Twoforthedough, and seventh-place finisher Already Rude.

Jess a Classy Lassy following plan

The plan is working for Jess a Classy Lassy, who is heading into Sunday's Grade 1, $625,000 Rainbow Futurity as the fastest qualifier and one of the favorites for the 400-yard second leg of the Ruidoso Downs futurity triple crown series.

The All American Triple Crown concludes on Labor Day with the Grade 1, $2 million (estimated) All American Futurity at 440 yards.

Jess a Classy Lassy made her career debut in a maiden race at Remington Park, finishing third after a troubled start.

"When we ran her at Remington, we were thinking about the Heritage Place Futurity," owner-breeder Ted Abrams said. "She got in trouble and then closed so well that we changed our plan and started thinking about longer futurities, the Rainbow and the All American."

In the ninth of 18 Rainbow Futurity trials, Jess a Classy Lassy showed that strategy change was wise with an expanding 2 3/4-length win in the fastest time of 19.432 seconds for 400 yards.

Wild Six could gain the favorite's role after remaining undefeated from four career starts with her trial win in 19.478 seconds, the third-fastest time. She has earned $145,003, with the majority of those earnings coming from her fast-closing win in the Grade 1, $266,000 West Texas Futurity.

The only setback in Wild Six's career was when she flipped in the gate at the start of her Ruidoso Futurity trial and was scratched. She came back from that incident to calmly stand in the gate before racing to her half-length trial win.

Three Past Six, an $8,000 yearling purchase, finished third in the Ruidoso Futurity and then second to Wild Six in their Rainbow Futurity trial. She is the fifth-fastest qualifier with a 19.555-second time.