02/02/2005 12:00AM

Dash on a Mission takes spotlight


Trainer Denny Ekins will send out his stable's Grade 1-winning second stringer, Dash on a Mission, in the trials to the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby while resting his barn's star, 2004 champion 2-year-old Ocean Runaway.

The horses with the 10 fastest times from the four 400-yard trials qualify for the finals on Feb. 25.

Ocean Runaway was eligible to be entered in the trials for the $232,000 Winter Derby, but Ekins said, "We're giving him some time off. He deserves a break after racing so hard last year."

Ocean Runaway earned his championship with Grade 1 victories in the $1 million Golden State Million and the $1.5 million Los Alamitos Million.

Dash on a Mission joined his division's upper echelon when he traveled to Sam Houston Race Park and defeated Azoom, the runner-up in the champion 2-year-old colt voting, in the Grade 1 Ford Juvenile Challenge Championship on Nov. 6, his most recent start. That victory capped a current three-race winning streak that includes the Grade 3 California Juvenile Challenge.

In preparation for the derby trials, Dash on a Mission worked 350 yards in 18.30 seconds on Jan. 18.

Last year, national champion trainer Paul Jones qualified eight of the 10 Winter Derby finalists before losing the finals to 2004 world champion Be a Bono. On Friday he will saddle 17 of the 36 trial entrants, including the All American Futurity third-place finisher, Devons Signature; the Denim N Diamonds Handicap winner, One More Habit; the Cypress Handicap winner, Dutch Schultz; the Corona Chick Handicap winner, Feel the Roar; and the Autumn Handicap winner, Lethal Bay.

The third trial - the eighth race - is the strongest trial, with Dash on a Mission meeting the Jones-trained pair of One More Habit and Feel the Roar.

Also in the Winter Derby trials are Flyn GT, runner-up in the Grade 1 Ed Burke Futurity, and Gulfstream Five, a qualifier to the Golden State Million and the Los Alamitos Million.

Catchmeinyourdreams returns

Catchmeinyourdreams, the defending two-time champion aged gelding, takes his first step toward another possible championship when he starts in the trials to the Grade 1, $200,000 Los Alamitos Winter Championship on Saturday night.

The 10 fastest qualifiers from the three 400-yard trials will be eligible to race in the finals on Feb. 26.

Catchmeinyourdreams has finished on the board in 13 of his last 15 starts, 10 of those Grade 1 stakes, and has three Grade 1 victories. In his last three starts, he won the Grade 1 Go Man Go Invitational and the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Championship, then finished fourth in the Grade 1 Champion of Champions.

A 6-year-old gelding, Catchmeinyourdreams will have regular rider Cody Jenson, who is returning this weekend following knee surgery in December.

Jones will also be well represented in the Winter Championship trials. His contingent includes the 2003 Winter Champion winner, Whosleavingwho; the Grade 1 Challenge Derby Championship winner, A New Hero; and the 2003 Rainbow Futurity winner, Planet Holland. Jones will also send out Dealadash, runner-up in the Grade 1 Spencer Childers Handicap; Meteoric, runner-up in the 2003 Winter Championship; Brookstone Bay, winner of the First Down Dash Handicap; and Mocha Blast, winner of the Bellflower Handicap.

Whosleavingwho and A New Hero were supplemented to the trials at a cost of $15,000 each.

Ekins will have Grade 1 Golden State Derby winner Not for Long in the Winter Championship trials.