04/21/2006 11:00PM

Valid Rush hot horse in hot barn

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STICKNEY, Ill. - Paul Darjean hasn't cracked the top 20 in the trainer standings at the ongoing National Jockey Club meet at Hawthorne, but really, how could he? Darjean has just seven active horses at the moment, horses, that is, who are race fit and basically ready to roll. He has managed to get seven of them to the starting gate, four of whom have won with three others second. So, top 20 no; very well done, yes.

"Well, everybody can get lucky every now and then," said Darjean.

Certainly luck has something to do with it. A trainer can have 40 head breaking down the barn, ready to win, and if a black cloud descends, it can be a long few months. But Darjean's horses have been uniformly ready to run and well spotted in their races. On March 3, Darjean won a $10,000 maiden claimer with Valid Rush, a horse who hadn't started in more than two years. Twenty-five days later, he moved Valid Rush up in class, to a $17,500 conditioned claimer, while also stretching him out to two turns for the first time, and - voila! - Valid Rush won again. The horse, a 5-year-old, validated his mild upset with a solid second of eight April 8 in a first-level route allowance, and now Darjean has led his horse to greener pastures - turf racing, that is.

Valid Rush starts at Hawthorne Monday in race 6, an entry-level grass allowance at 1 1/16 miles. And Valid Rush, totally forgotten by most handicappers as recently as February, has to be taken into account. He has decent route speed, and has shown he can sustain it over a distance of ground, and Darjean has reason to believe Valid Rush might transfer his current form to turf.

"He's got a half-brother that did real well on the turf, so I just decided to try him on it," Darjean said. "He's doing good right now, and I keep my fingers crossed that he holds together for me."

Darjean also has on the way back the talented Top Kick, who won a stakes here this time last year in his second career start, but came up with a fractured sesamoid that has kept him out of action since last summer.

"He's back in training again," Darjean said. "He won't be ready to run real soon, [but] sometime at Arlington."