08/11/2004 12:00AM

After last-place finish in trial, derby may be must-win for Hawkish


Following a last-place trial finish, Hawkish will try to regain his championship form against several sharp 3-year-olds in the Grade 1, $173,000 Golden State Derby on Saturday night at Los Alamitos.

Last summer, Hawkish was Quarter Horse racing's undisputed star after he set a track record with his victory in the Grade 1 Kindergarten and romped to a 1 3/4-length win in the Ed Burke Futurity. He then won the Grade 1 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity on Oct. 4 to secure the 2-year-old colt championship.

But the PCQHRA Futurity, his most recent race at 350 yards or less, was also his most recent victory. Hawkish has lost three straight races at 400 yards since then, including a ninth-place finish as the even-money favorite in the Los Alamitos Million in December.

Coming off a six-month layoff on July 24 in the second of two Golden State Derby trials, Hawkish was never a factor, and finished sixth in the field of six 3-year-olds. Hawkish reached the finals because only 12 horses started in the two trials, and his time - 20.156 seconds for the 400 yards - was good enough for the ninth-fastest qualifying time.

A strong performance in the Golden State Derby would have his supporters saying he needed the trial race, but a poor effort could have his critics saying it's time for Hawkish to become a stallion.

Hawkish's task in the Golden State will not be easy, as he lines up against fastest-qualifier Deeheiress and Governor's Cup Derby winner Not for Long, two 3-year-olds in peak form.

Deeheiress, a daughter of leading sire Mr Jess Perry and two-time champion Deelish, won her fourth race in her last five starts in the first Golden State trial. She won the Grade 3 Miss Princess Handicap on April 10, then came back on July 24 after a layoff to run down Jesse James Jr and win her Golden State trial by a head in 19.690 seconds.

Not for Long is after his second Grade 1 derby win in less than two months, having scored by a strong half-length in the Grade 1 Governor's Cup Derby on June 19. He won his Golden State trial - which contained Hawkish - by a half-length in 19.725 seconds, the third-fastest qualifying time.

Also qualifying out of Not for Long's trial were Make It Work, runner-up in the Grade 2 La Primera Del Ano Derby, and Corona for Me, the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Million runner-up, who did not break sharply in the trial.

* On Friday night at Los Alamitos, La Jolla Ca, third in the Grade 1 Kindergarten, will run in the third of three trials to the Ford California Challenge for juveniles at 350 yards. The 10 fastest qualifiers will return for the Grade 3 finals on Aug. 28.