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Company Could Help Diamond For Jess in Adequan Derby Challenge

November 17, 2010

Trainer R.L. “Rick” Robinson, his wife, Kathy, and son, Tony, brought several friends with them to Fair Grounds Race Course for the Bank of America Racing Challenge Championships on Friday. They include a Golden Retriever named Dylan, who has relaxed in the backseat of their truck while it is parked in the track's barn area in the mornings, and a calico-colored rabbit named Precious, purchased by Robinson three years ago to babysit a nervous filly, placing the cage in the horse's stall to give her some company.

“We got rid of the filly but kept the rabbit,” said Robinson. “We like animals.”

Since arriving at Fair Grounds several days ago, Precious has been tucked deep in straw in a roomy cage perched on the shedrow wall across from the equine star for the Robinsons. That would be Diamond For Jess, the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the $200,000 Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G1). (For the record, Diamond For Jess doesn't pay attention to Precious, the trainer said.)

Diamond For Jess, whom Robinson affectionately calls “Chester,” earned a spot in the Derby Challenge Championship by winning the Adequan Sam Houston Derby Challenge (G3) on July 31. In April, the gelding captured the Remington Park Derby (G2) while setting the 400-yard track record of
:19.340 and in May was fourth in the Heritage Place Derby (G1). The Derby Challenge Championship will mark his eighth start of the year and his first race since September 24 when he ran fourth in a trial to the Dash For Cash Derby (G2) at Lone Star Park.

Robinson, who trains Diamond For Jess for owner Dan Nicks of Devine, Texas, said he was pleased the Feature Mr Jess gelding drew post 8 in the 11-horse Derby Challenge Championship. He believes the company on either side will help keep the gelding focused on his business.

“If he's between horses, he runs good,” said Robinson, who sent Diamond For Jess to the starting gate for a schooling session on Wednesday morning. “We just didn't want the outside. We were all holding our breath when they drew the 11 (post, which went to Acorn). He doesn't run good from the outside.”

Friday's race will mark the final start of the year for Diamond For Jess, who will be turned out with his owner with a planned return to competition early in 2011 at Remington.

Diamond For Jess is the second starter in the Challenge Championships for Robinson, who sent out Heza Marquette Maker to a sixth-place finish in the 2008 AQHA Distance Championship (G1) at Evangeline Downs. Robinson, who lives near San Antonio, Texas, grew up five miles from Los Alamitos and worked for Russell Harris when he was beginning his training career.

First post for Friday's 13-race card at Fair Grounds is 5 p.m. Central. For the first time, the Bank of America Challenge Championships will be featured on Horse Racing TV and available to the channel’s 17 million subscribers, as well as free to view on AQHA’s Q-Racing Video. During the “free weekend,” nonsubscribers will be asked for a valid e-mail address to access the site. Q-Racing Video will be free and open to the world from 8 a.m. Friday, November 19, through the evening of Sunday, November 21. BY AMY OWENS