01/16/2003 12:00AM

First Regards faces deep opposition


First Regards, named 2002 champion 3-year-old filly on Wednesday, will face a stern test when she goes up against three finalists for the 2002 champion aged mare award - Corona Kool, Dinastia Toll, and Running Bac - in the Grade 1, $125,000 Charger Bar Handicap over 400 yards on Saturday night at Los Alamitos.

First Regards, owned by Ramich Farms, won the Grade 1 Dash for Cash Derby and was third in the Grade 1 Texas Classic Derby at Lone Star Park last fall. She will be making her Los Alamitos debut in the Charger Bar. She had been trained throughout her career in the Southwest by Jack Brooks but has now joined the Los Alamitos-based stable of Paul Jones, the 2002 national champion trainer.

While First Regards is a reigning champion, she may not be the favorite against Corona Kool, Dinastia Toll, and Running Bac.

Corona Kool, owned by Lucas Racing, is after her first stakes win since the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Championship on March 2. She was second to Dinastia Toll in the Las Damas Handicap and ninth in the Champion of Champions, her two most recent starts.

The 6-year-old Corona Kool has been a force for trainer Donna McArthur. She was the 1999 champion 2-year-old filly and the 2001 champion aged mare. Her first stakes win in her 2001 championship campaign came in the Charger Bar Handicap.

Brazilian import Dinastia Toll has won five of her last seven starts for trainer Danny Cardoza. Dinastia Toll won the Las Damas Handicap by a head over Corona Kool with Running Bac a close third.

Dinastia Toll's two defeats were a third-place finish behind Running Bac in the Mildred Vessels Handicap and an eighth-place finish in the Champion of Champions.

Running Bac, trained by Juan Aleman, won four straight stakes races against females before her third-place effort in the Las Damas Handicap on Oct. 5. The highlight of those four stakes wins was her half-length victory in the Grade 1, $100,000 Mildred Vessels.

A Real Man in Grade 3 Sunland Express

A Real Man, recently named the champion 3-year-old and champion 3-year-old gelding, makes his 4-year-old debut in the Grade 3, $50,000 Sunland Express Handicap at 300 yards on Saturday.

The Sunland Express is the first race in a three-race series that awards $100,000 to the connections of any horse who sweeps the series. The other two races are the West Texas Maturity on March 1 and the MBNA America New Mexico Challenge on April 6.

A Real Man, owned by Bill Price and trained by Eddie Willis, is making his first start since finishing second in the Grade 1 Texas Classic Derby on Nov. 29.

He will carry high weight of 125 pounds, for winning two Grade 1 derbies and placing in three Grade 1 derbies last year.

Also in the Express are defending champion Kendall Jackson and Grade 1 Rainbow Derby winner SC Chiseled in Stone.