04/14/2004 12:00AM

Count 'em: Eight Jones finalists in two derbies


It could be just another ho-hum dominating weekend for defending two-time national champion trainer Paul Jones, who has eight of the 20 finalists running in two Grade 2 derbies at Los Alamitos.

On Friday night, Jones saddles the four fastest qualifiers to the $131,000 El Primero Del Ano Derby for colts and geldings, and the following night he has four fillies in the $143,000 La Primera Del Ano Derby.

Last year, Jones won his second consecutive national training title when his horses won 27 stakes and earned a record $4,998,244. This year, Jones is continuing his No. 1 ranking, with 11 stakes wins and stable earnings of $871,662.

Jones won the two 400-yard El Primero Derby trials on March 26 with Frequent Strawflyer and Mocha Blast, each ridden by Ramon Sanchez. While those colts won their trials, one of the Jones-trained second-place horses from each trial could win the derby.

In the first trial, Frequent Strawflyer burst from the gate while the stakes-tested Ocean Cartel was bumped from each side. Frequent Strawflyer held on to win by a nose over Ocean Cartel, the 6-5 favorite, with a winning time of 19.870 seconds. Ocean Cartel is looking for his first win from four starts this year after winning the Los Alamitos Million Juvenile and finishing third in the Grade 1 Ed Burke Futurity last year.

In the second El Primero trial, Los Alamitos Winter Derby runner-up Mocha Blast held off Awise Chick to win by a nose in 19.95 seconds. Awise Chick got off to a pedestrian start, but boldly rallied and nearly gained his second career win from 10 starts.

In the El Primero Derby, Sanchez will be aboard Mocha Blast, a top-three finisher in each of his eight starts.

In the La Primera Derby, Jones will be represented by Feet of Flames, a trial winner; Hi Jazzing Amanda, a maiden winner; Honor and Cherish, a finalist to the Governor's Cup Futurity; and Los Al Fly, third-place finisher in the California Breeders Freshman Stakes.

Feet of Flames, second to multiple Grade 1 winner Willie Works in the Cypress Handicap, won her trial on March 27 by 1 3/4 lengths in 20.25 seconds for the 400 yards, good for the third-fastest qualifying time.

While Jones has his foursome in the La Primera Derby, the filly to watch could be Make It Work from trainer Donna McArthur, who has won this race twice in the last seven runnings.

Make It Work, third in the Los Alamitos Million Juvenile, finished second in the first of two trials under a confident hold by jockey Sam Thompson. She was making her first start since Jan. 16 and figures to step forward in the finals.

So Significant won that trial over Make It Work in 19.96 seconds, the fastest qualifying time.

A daughter of two-time champion Significant Speed, So Significant is looking for her first stakes victory after winning three of 10 starts against lesser competition.