12/11/2003 12:00AM

Filly poised to join an elite group


LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. - AB What a Runner clinched the 2-year-old championship when she won the All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs last year.

Saturday at Los Alamitos, she tries to become only the third All American winner to also win the prestigious Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos.

Run at 440 yards, the classic distance in Quarter Horse racing, the $500,000 Champion of Champions is likely to determine Quarter Horse of the Year.

Those facing AB What a Runner include three top older horses - Catchmeinyourdreams, Panther Mountain, and defending champion Whosleavingwho.

AB What a Runner is attempting to join Easy Date and Refrigerator as All American Futurity winners who won the Champion of Champions. Easy Date won the Champion of Champions in 1975 as a 3-year-old filly, while the gelding Refrigerator won three consecutive runnings, from 1992-94.

Since Easy Date's victory, four 3-year-old fillies have won the Champion of Champions.

Most of the 10 berths for the Champion of Champions are awarded to the winners of eight major stakes nationwide throughout the year. If any of the winners of those races do not start, berths revert to the horses with the fastest qualifying times in 400-yard trials on Nov. 21. This year, five berths were available in the trials.

Whosleavingwho qualified with a win in the Los Alamitos Winter Championship in February. Other automatic berths went to AB What a Runner (Los Alamitos Derby), Catchmeinyourdreams (Los Alamitos Invitational), Panther Mountain (MBNA America Challenge), and Takin on Spoon Man (Go Man Go Handicap).

Buccaneer Beach, Kates Driver, Royaltime Classic, The Down Side, and Zookie Street qualified through the trials.

The Champion of Champions will be AB What a Runner's first start against older males. Owned by Dennie and Kris Hill of Blackfoot, Idaho, and trained by Bret Vickery, she has won 8 of 9 starts and $1,207,874.

"I think her best race was the All American because she had to dig in," Vickery said. "She'll have to do that in this race again."

AB What a Runner will be favored, but there will be ample support for Catchmeinyourdreams, Panther Mountain, and Whosleavingwho.

Whosleavingwho won the Vessels Maturity at Los Alamitos in August but was last in the Los Alamitos Championship.

Earlier this fall, he was briefly sent to trainer Paul Jones's ranch in Southern California in an effort to revive his enthusiasm for racing.

"He really impressed me in his last work because he was acting like his old self," Jones said.