02/20/2009 12:00AM

Valid Rule, Ninth Client face off

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - The $50,000 Mountain Valley for 3-year-old sprinters won't be run until next weekend at Oaklawn Park, but some quality colts from that division will show up here Sunday in the first race.

The $50,000 optional claimer for 3-year-olds at six furlongs is one of two high-end races on the card. The ninth is a first-level allowance.

Valid Rule, a former $15,000 claimer whose career has gone nothing but up, meets the Grade 3-placed Ninth Client in the optional claimer, which carries first-level allowance conditions. Others in the six-horse field include the quick Merkel, who last year at 2 was fourth in the Gradeo3 Kentucky Breeder's Cup at Churchill Downs.

Valid Rule won his maiden for a $15,000 claiming tag last December at Hawthorne, covering six furlongs wire-to-wire in a rapid 1:09.60. He proceeded to win a $25,000 conditioned claimer in January, was claimed from the race, and made his Oaklawn debut Feb. 1.

Valid Rule gave a good account of himself, as he was third to the stakes-placed Dance Caller in a $62,500 optional claiming race at six furlongs. The runner-up from that race, Sangre Frio, was a well-regarded runner who shipped in from Fair Grounds. Chris Richard trains Valid Rule, a son of Peace Rules who races for Maggi Moss.

Valid Rule drew a favorable post in gate 5, which might give his rider, Eddie Razo Jr., some useful options.

The chief threat is Ninth Client, who will cut back to one turn after finishing sixth in the $50,000 Smarty Jones at a mile at Oaklawn last time in his first start since November.

Ninth Client faced some of the better 2-year-olds in training last year, when he ran in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita in October. He had earned a shot at the race after a strong turf route maiden win at Saratoga and a subsequent third-place finish in the Grade 3 Bourbon County at Keeneland.

D. Wayne Lukas trains Ninth Client for Marylou Whitney. Meet-leading jockey Terry Thompson will ride.

* Inquisitive, who came rolling for second in a first-level allowance at 1o1/16 miles at Oaklawn in his last start Jan. 24, will get some needed additional ground in the ninth race Sunday. The race will be run at 1 1/8 miles, and Inquisitive figures to make good use of the extra real estate. Calvin Borel has the mount for his brother, trainer Cecil Borel.