11/17/2004 12:00AM

The Down Side tries to qualify for Champions


Defending Champion of Champions winner The Down Side, part of a powerful contingent trained by Paul Jones, will attempt to gain one of the final three spots in this year's Grade 1, $500,000 Champion of Champions when he starts in the Grade 3 Z. Wayne Griffin Directors' Stakes on Friday night at Los Alamitos.

The Griffin Stakes comprises two $20,000 races that are the trials to fill open berths in the Champion of Champions on Dec. 11. This year, seven horses are eligible to the Champion of Champions after winning selected Grade 1 stakes, leaving three open berths. Those spots will go to the horses with the three fastest times in the Griffin at 400 yards.

Jones will saddle nine of the 11 horses entered in the two trials, guaranteeing him at least one qualifier for the Champion of Champions.

The Down Side, who has only seven career starts in three years, is following the same pattern as last year. Then he earned his Champion of Champions invitation when he won his Griffin trial by a neck. He followed with a 1 1/4-length Champion of Champions win in 21.19 seconds for the 440 yards, the fastest nighttime clocking ever at Los Alamitos and the second fastest time ever at Los Alamitos behind Dash for Cash's 21.17-second track record.

The Down Side was off 10 months after his Champion of Champions victory and returned in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Championship at 440 yards, finishing fourth.

Joining The Down Side from the Jones barn in the first Griffin trial are Meteoric, First N Kool, and Coronas Prospect.

The second trial features 2002 Champion of Champions winner Whosleavingwho, who is trained by Jones; Deefirst; and 3-year-olds A Regal Choice, Brookstone Bay, and Cash for Kas.

Whosleavingwho was named the 2002 co-world champion after winning the 2002 Champion of Champions. Last year, he won three Grade 1 stakes before finishing fourth in the Champion of Champions. In three starts this year, Whosleavingwho has an allowance victory and seconds in two Grade 1 races, the Go Man Go Invitational and the Los Alamitos Championship.

A Regal Choice, winner of the 2003 Los Alamitos Million, comes off a second behind Champion of Champions qualifier Be a Bono in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Derby.

Brookstone Bay, the fastest qualifier to the Grade 1 All American Derby, was a 1 1/4-length winner of The First Down Dash Handicap in his most recent start.

Deefirst won the 2003 Southern California Derby, and Cash for Kas was second in this year's All American Derby.

Pinelli pair back in Marathon trials

Trainer Laura Pinelli will send out the strong pair of Heros Call and Oak Canyon, the first- and third-place finishers in last year's Marathon National, in the trials to the Grade 1, $175,000 Marathon National on Saturday night at Los Alamitos.

The horses with the eight fastest times in the two 870-yard trials qualify to run in the Marathon National on Dec. 12.

Heros Call was named the 2003 co-champion distance horses after his one-length victory in last year's Marathon National. This year, he is winless in four starts, and comes off two seconds in 870-yard stakes.

Oak Canyon has made three starts this year, including 870-yard stakes wins in the Jim Smith Handicap and the Bull Rastus Handicap.