12/10/2003 1:00AM

Hawkish poised to make history


Hawkish will earn the largest check in the 53-year history of Los Alamitos Race Course on Friday night if he wins the Grade 1, $1,367,650 Los Alamitos Million and collects the $1 million Los Alamitos Bonanza bonus.

The Los Alamitos Million is the first of four Grade 1 races during the year's most important weekend at Los Alamitos. Saturday night, the 2003 world championship could be decided in the $500,000 Champion of Champions. Sunday, the $175,000 Marathon National - the world's richest 870-yard race - and the $155,950 Southern California Derby will be contested.

The winner's share of the Million is $574,932, and the $1 million Bonanza is a bonus that goes to the connections of any horse who can win the Grade 1 Kindergarten, the Grade 1 Ed Burke Futurity, and the Million.

Hawkish, who is owned by Enrique Gonzalez, moved to the front of the 2-year-old division when he won the $400,000 Kindergarten on May 17 in a track-record 15.18 seconds for the 300 yards. He then dominated the $400,000 Burke on July 26, winning by 1 3/4 lengths.

Gonzalez decided to run Hawkish in the Grade 1, $335,000 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity on Oct. 4 rather than rest the colt for the Million trials.

It looked like the correct decision when Hawkish, despite a hoof abscess, sped to a half-length win.

Then, despite winning three Grade 1 futurities, Gonzalez decided to replace trainer Concepcion Baldaramma with Danny Cardoza, the only person to win Grade 1 races as a jockey and a trainer. Cardoza won the All American Futurity as a rider and gained his million-dollar training wins in the 1999 and 2000 runnings of the Million.

In his only start for Cardoza, Hawkish finished a neck behind dead-heat winners Dash of Perry and Cash for Kas in a trial for the Los Alamitos Million on Nov. 28. Hawkish broke very well under regular rider Alex Bautista and had the early lead over Dash of Perry, who pulled ahead in the final strides of the 400-yard trial. Cash For Kas was the fastest-moving horse in the last half of the trial, passing Hawkish and catching Dash of Perry.

"He has been training a lot better than before the trials," Cardoza said. "We believe that he is ready."

Dash of Perry and Cash For Kas were given 19.635-second times - the second-fastest qualifying times - and Hawkish was timed in 19.675 seconds.

Dash of Perry, a filly, has been judiciously managed by trainer Russell Harris and has earned $299,843, primarily from a close second-place finish in the Grade 1, $1.8 million All American Futurity on Sept. 1 at Ruidoso Downs. She has two wins and four second-place finishes from six starts.

Cash For Kas is one of four finalists from the stable of leading trainer Paul Jones, whose horses have earned a record $3,645,752 this year.

Jones, winner of five of the 10 Million trials, will also saddle trial winner A Regal Choice, former claimer Real Quik Dasher, and Golden State Futurity finalist Well I Never, an impressive trial winner.

Trainer Carlos Lopez has fastest-qualifier Corona for Me in peak form at the right time. Corona for Me finished fifth in the Golden State Futurity and then dominated his Million trial by 2 3/4 lengths in 19.55 seconds.

A Delightful Legacy comes into the Million off four straight wins, including the All American Juvenile - a race for All American Futurity non-qualifiers - in 21.05 seconds for the 440 yards, faster than the All American winning time (21.10 seconds) on the same day.

Filly favored in Champions

AB What a Runner is the 2-1 morning-line favorite to become the first 3-year-old filly since Dashing Folly in 1996 to win the Grade 1, $500,000 Champion of Champions on Saturday night.

AB What a Runner has won 8 of 9 career starts, including the 2002 All American Futurity. This year, she defeated older mares in the Grade 1 Mildred Vessels Handicap and easily won the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Derby, her most recent race, in a stakes-record 19.44 seconds for 400 yards.

In the Champion of Champions, AB What a Runner will face the strongest competition of her career, including defending champion Whosleavingwho, Los Alamitos Championship winner Catchmeinyourdreams, and MBNA America Challenge Championship winner Panther Mountain.

Buccaneer Beach, claimed for $8,000 by trainer Jesus Nunez for owner Jose Santos on July 8, is the rags-to-possible-riches story with two Los Alamitos stakes wins in his two starts since Nov. 1.

Pinelli has almost half the field

Owner-trainer Laura Pinelli has the numbers in the Grade 1, $175,000 Marathon National on Sunday with her three-horse entry of Heros Call, Oak Canyon, and Coolmore in the eight-horse field.

Heros Call was the fastest qualifier from the two trials on Nov. 22 with a 1 1/4-length win in 44.66 seconds for the 870 yards. He defeated Available Credit, winner of three stakes this year, and 4-5 favorite Harbor Beach, who also qualified for the finals.

Oak Canyon has finished on the board in 7 of 8 starts this year while Coolmore was third in the Calyx Handicap.

Sunday's Southern California Derby is led by the Dutch Masters III-owned entry of Meteoric and Toasting My Dad, the two fastest qualifiers. Meteoric, an earner of $514,832, has won 11 of 15 career starts, while Toasting My Dad has three wins and a second-place finish from four starts this year.