08/04/2009 11:00PM

Checker fresh for Challenge trials


When Checker starts in the second division of Friday's Bank of America California Challenge trials at Los Alamitos, the 440-yard race will be his first start since a win in the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Racing Association Derby last October. Trainer Lin Melton thinks that gives the 4-year-old Checker an advantage.

"I think he'll be tough," he said. "He needs an out really bad. He's always run well fresh."

Owned by the Dutch Masters III partnership and Kelly Spackman, Checker has won 7 of 17 starts and $115,976. The PCQHRA Derby is his biggest win, but it came at a cost. Checker was diagnosed with a bone chip in a knee after that race, and the subsequent surgery left him on the sidelines.

Melton knew Checker was over the knee surgery "as soon as I brought him in" earlier this year. "He loves to train," Melton said. "I would have run him six weeks ago, but I couldn't get him in."

Checker was nominated for the California Breeders' Sprint Stakes on July 25, but the race did not fill. The Spencer Childers Championship over 440 yards the same night was an option, but Melton did not want to start Checker against Freaky, the top older horse at Los Alamitos this year.

Freaky is not part of the California Challenge trials, which drew two seven-horse divisions. The horses with the 10 fastest times, regardless of finishing positions, will qualify for the $70,000 final on Aug. 22. The winner of that race receives an automatic berth to the $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship at Los Alamitos on Oct. 31.

Trainer Paul Jones has four runners in the trials. In the first division, the seventh race, Jones starts Bannow Bay, who was third in the Remington Park Championship, and Strength In Numbers, who won the 2007 Los Alamitos Championship. The seventh race also includes Fighter on Fire, who was third behind Freaky in the Vessels Maturity on June 19 but was disqualified and placed sixth for interference.

The second division, the eighth race, includes the Jones-trained Trisk, third in the Spencer Childers, and Masters Call, a winner of 7 of 13 starts. Checker drew the outside post in the second division. He is Melton's only hope in the trials.

Schvaneveldt buys topper at own sale

A First Down Dash colt sold for $100,000 to become the sale-topper at Tuesday's Schvaneveldt yearling sale at Barretts in Pomona, Calif. The buyer was legendary trainer Blane Schvaneveldt, who operates the sale. The colt is a full brother to the 1997 stakes winner Docs First Card. The sale-topper was consigned by Burns Ranch, on behalf of A Regal Choice Inc.

Overall, 83 horses sold for $902,000, an average of $10,867.