12/07/2006 12:00AM

Another rider for Apollitical Time

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In one sense, Apollitical Time's preparation for Saturday's $600,000 Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos has been flawless. She has won her last five starts, including the prestigious Los Alamitos Championship in October.

In another way, the buildup has been a mess. Trainer Juan Aleman cannot keep a jockey for the brilliant 4-year-old filly.

Regular rider Ramon Sanchez has defected to the outstanding 3-year-old Wave Carver for Saturday's race. His replacement, Alex Bautista, rode Apollitical Time in a prep race in November but was suspended for 30 days last weekend for failing to ride at Los Alamitos on Nov. 30.

As a result, Saul Ramirez Jr. has picked up the mount on Apollitical Time, who is likely to go favored in the 440-yard Champion of Champions.

"Losing Alex did bother me, but life goes on," Aleman said.

Owned by Juan Alberto Tirado Lizzarraga, Apollitical Time will be making her second start in the Champion of Champions, having finished third in 2005. Since then, she has won 5 of 6 races.

She earned an automatic berth to the Champion of Champions with her win in the Los Alamitos Championship in October. Four other horses earned automatic berths by winning major races this year: Country Chicks Man (Refrigerator Handicap at Lone Star Park in October), Be a Bono (Vessels Maturity at Los Alamitos in June), Gold Medal Jess (Los Alamitos Winter Championship in February), and Wave Carver (Los Alamitos Derby in November).

The other five runners in Saturday's race - Blazin Fire, Gulfstream Five, Like Frankie and Me, Lindas Dasher, and Strawkins - earned berths in time trials on Nov. 18. Apollitical Time won a division of those trials, but ran in that race only so Bautista could be familiar with the filly.

Despite the disruption with jockeys, Aleman is more concerned about Be a Bono than Ramirez not having ridden Apollitical Time.

"I'm pretty confident for being in a race like this," Aleman said. "Be a Bono has a late kick. We've got to get a good break and hold on that last 40 yards. She's got to be at her best."

Be a Bono, second in the 2004 Champion of Champions, will break from the outside. He thrives at 440 yards.

"We didn't want to break next to [Apollitical Time] or Country Chicks Man because they break so fast," trainer Dan Francisco said. "We'll just have to wear them down."

A winner of 13 of 20 starts and $1,203,811, Be a Bono was a troubled seventh in the Los Alamitos Championship, a loss that interrupted a three-race winning streak.