02/25/2004 1:00AM

Jones has the numbers for big weekend


Defending national champion Quarter Horse trainer Paul Jones is prepared for a promising weekend at Los Alamitos, with eight of the 10 finalists in the Grade 1, $200,000 Los Alamitos Winter Derby on Friday night and the two fastest qualifiers to the Grade 1, $200,000 Los Alamitos Winter Championship on Saturday night.

While Jones dominates the Winter Derby, the year's first Grade 1 derby, he may not have the race favorite, or even the top two choices.

The favorite should be Be a Bono, the undefeated fastest qualifier. From the Dan Francisco barn, Be a Bono has already won the Grade 1, $864,850 Golden State Futurity. The second choice could be the Blane Schvaneveldt-trained Willie Works, winner of three stakes races in has last four starts.

Be a Bono raced to his fifth win from five starts when he won his Winter Derby trial by a head over Willie Works. Be a Bono ran 400 yards in 19.675 seconds, while Willie Works was timed in 19.690 seconds. It was the first defeat since Aug. 29 for Willie Works, winner of the Grade 1 American Airlines Challenge Championship.

Jones's eight derby horses are headed by Planet Holland, Cash for Kas, and Brookstone Bay.

Planet Holland won the Grade 1, $625,000 Rainbow Futurity last summer after setting the Ruidoso Downs track record for 400 yards (19.302 seconds) in his trial.

Cash for Kas finished third in the Grade 1, $1,367,650 Los Alamitos Million on Dec. 12 and then returned to win the Denim N Diamonds Handicap.

Brookstone Bay, a Golden State Futurity finalist, defeated Cash for Kas in their Winter Derby trial.

Jones should have the Winter Championship favorite in fastest-qualifier Meteoric, a 4-year-old gelding who was recently purchased by a group that includes Jones. In his first start for his new connections, Meteoric won his Winter Championship trial by a neck over stablemate Deefirst, winner of the Grade 1 Southern California Derby over Meteoric. Meteoric was given a 19.680-second time for the 400 yards while Deefirst is the second-fastest qualifier with a 19.730-second time.

Meteoric possesses great natural speed, but has yet to win a Grade 1 stakes. He was second in the 2002 Los Alamitos Million and third in the 2002 All American Futurity, Quarter Horse racing's two richest races.

Buccaneer Beach, the sport's rags-to-riches tale, could spoil Jones's Winter Championship. He was claimed for $8,000 by trainer Jesus Nunez on July 18 for $8,000 and closed out 2003 with two stakes wins and a third-place finish in the Grade 1, $500,000 Champion of Champions.

'Push' shoots for first graded stakes

Fastest qualifier Push the Pace will not have an easy time earning his first graded stakes win in Saturday afternoon's Grade 2, $69,475 West Texas Maturity at Sunland Park.

Push the Pace, winner of five minor stakes, won his West Texas Maturity trial Feb 13 in 19.445 seconds for the 400 yards, the fastest time from the three trials.

Push the Pace will line up against Special Task Force, winner of the Grade 1 Refrigerator Handicap; Kendall Jackson, a five-time Sunland Park stakes winner and two-time track-record holder; and Silent Overdrive, a six-time stakes winner and holder of track records at Fair Grounds and Louisiana Downs.