12/13/2007 12:00AM

Champion of Champions a real scramble

EmailLOS ALAMITOS, Calif. - Scoop Vessels, the owner of Vessels Stallion Farm in Bonsall, Calif., owns a share of three of the 10 finalists in Saturday's $1 million Champion of Champions for Quarter Horses at Los Alamitos.

But even with that kind of depth, Vessels cannot be overconfident entering the sport's most prestigious race, a 440-yard event that annually determines the World Champion Quarter Horse.

Vessels has three 3-year-olds in the field - FDD Dynasty, unbeaten in three starts this year; No Secrets Here, the winner of the 2006 All American Futurity; and Little Bit of Baja, who upset No Secrets Here in the Los Alamitos Super Derby on Nov. 10.

Paul Jones, who has won four of the last five runnings, trains three entrants: No Secrets Here; Volcom, the winner of the Los Alamitos Winter Championship in February; and Strawkins, who may go favored after winning the Bank of America Challenge Championship on Nov. 3.

Adan Farias, seeking his first Champion of Champions win, trains Little Bit of Baja; Budj, who qualified through the Nov. 24 time trials; and Five Bar Molly, the winner of the Vessels Maturity in June.

"I think it's one of the toughest Champion of Champions," said Farias. "This year, it's not like there is only one outstanding horse."

No Secrets Here was a late addition to the race. He had the second-fastest qualifying time in the trials, but only one berth was available at the time. When All American Derby winner Dont Let Down was recently withdrawn because of injury, No Secrets Here gained a spot in Saturday's race.

From Vessels's perspective, it was a rare stroke of luck for No Secrets Here, who has not won a major stakes since the 2006 All American.

"He had tough luck this year with a foot problem in New Mexico," Vessels said. "At 440, No Secrets Here will be tough."

The distance is a test for FDD Dynasty, who has not started since winning the 400-yard Go Man Go Handicap in September.

Five Bar Molly and the 3-year-old Blues Girl Too are the only females in the race. Blues Girl Too won the Golden State Derby and Millie Vessels Handicap in September, but is winless in her last two starts. She was fourth by a neck in the Los Alamitos Super Derby.

Blues Girl Too will be trying 440 yards for the first time. "She's got to have her normal outstanding start, especially going 440 yards against older horses," said trainer Joe Bassett.

He said the absence of a time trial for Blues Girl Too allows her to enter the Champion of Champions in better form.

"We've had five weeks and I think that will freshen her up," Bassett said.

Country Chicks Man, third in the 2006 Champion of Champions, was a major stakes winner in Oklahoma earlier this year, and is considered an outsider.

A 6-year-old horse bred to more than 100 mares earlier this year, Country Chicks Man was seventh in the Go Man Go Handicap, emerging from the race with an illness. Owner-trainer Sparky Mullins took Country Chicks Man back to Oklahoma and exercised him on an underwater treadmill before deciding to return to California.

"He got to doing so good we decided to give it a shot," Mullins said.