05/22/2001 11:00PM

Illusioneiress heads Ruidoso Futurity trials

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West Texas Futurity winner Illusioneiress, the top-ranked juvenile in the weekly American Quarter Horse Association poll, tops the trials to the $450,000-estimated Ruidoso Futurity on Friday's opening-day card of the Ruidoso Downs 62-day summer meeting.

Racing runs through Monday this week and then goes to a Thursday-through-Sunday schedule next week. First post time is 3:30 p.m. on weekdays and 1 p.m. on weekends. There is a 2 p.m. first post time on opening day.

Illusioneiress took the top spot in the national 2-year-old rankings when she sped to a 1 3/4-length victory in the West Texas Futurity at Sunland Park on April 8.

"She's wonderful. We can't hold her," trainer Jose Gonzalez said. "She came out of the West Texas in great shape."

A Royal Quick Dash filly, Illusioneiress is undefeated in three starts. She started her career with 1 3/4-length maiden win and then won her West Texas Futurity trial by a nose.

First Thoughts, the third-place finisher in the West Texas Futurity, is also expected for Friday's trials to the Grade 1 Ruidoso Futurity.

On Saturday, last year's Ruidoso Futurity winner Fightin Jane is expected to run in the trials to the $100,000-estimated Ruidoso Derby. In her only start this year, Fightin Jane was third in the La Villita Stakes at Retama Park on April 28.

Also expected for the trials to the Grade 2 Ruidoso Derby are Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby winner Whosleavingsho and last year's West Texas Futurity winner Stoli.

Champion Eyesa Special was nominated to the Ruidoso Derby, but trainer Jack Brooks said he is keeping the colt at Remington Park for the richer Heritage Place Derby.

The 10 fastest futurity qualifiers and the 10 fastest derby qualifiers will return on June 10 for the finals to their respective races.

The Ruidoso meet's cornerstone race is the $2 million (estimated) All American Futurity on Labor Day. The Grade 1 All American Derby is also slated for labor Day.

Other major Grade 1 races during the meet include the Grade 1 Rainbow Futurity and Grade 1 Rainbow Derby. They will be held on July 22.

A new event for New Mexico-breds, the Zia Festival, will be held on July 15. The Zia Festival will offer three stakes for New Mexico-bred Quarter Horses, including the $150,000-estimated Zia Futurity.

Ruidoso Downs racing secretary Chris Warren said he is conservatively projecting the daily average purse distribution at $60,000 and that he was overwhelmed with stall requests for Quarter Horses, especially 2-year-olds.

Los Al: Schvaneveldt pair looks tough

The Blane Schvaneveldt-trained pair of Meddlin in Money, winner of the Kaweah Bar Handicap, and champion The Casanova head the $69,570 MBNA America California Challenge at Los Alamitos on Saturday night.

Meddlin in Money and The Casanova come into the finals for the Grade 2 race off wins in the two California Challenge trials on May 12.

Meddlin in Money has been in sharp form this year. He was second, beaten a nose by Hawkinson, in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Championship and then was a nose winner of the Grade 3 Kaweah Bar Handicap under 126 pounds.

The Casanova is back in form after suffering a nearly fatal hoof infection and making only one start last year. "He's now fit and I think he's ready to make up for the lost year," Schvaneveldt said.

The Casanova was named the 1998 champion 3-year-old gelding after winning the All American Derby and running third in the Rainbow Derby.

Saturday night's winner receives an invitation to the Grade 1, $300,000 MBNA America Challenge Championship on Oct. 20 at Los Alamitos. The Challenge Championship winner receives a berth in the Grade 1, $400,000 Champion of Champions on Dec. 16.