11/02/2005 1:00AM

Jones may have a better horse up his sleeve

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Teller Cartel rose to the top of Quarter Horse racing with an upset win in the $1.9 million All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs on Sept. 5. His position may be tenuous, at best.

Friday at Los Alamitos, Teller Cartel starts as the favorite in the $1,145,000 Golden State Million Futurity at 400 yards. He may not be trainer Paul Jones's best chance.

Jones speaks highly of Teller Cartel, but is also tipping In Dispute, who set the fourth fastest qualifying time in trials on Oct. 21.

"I like him a lot," Jones said of In Dispute. Teller Cartel "may not be my first choice."

Those two, along with Higher Fire and another Jones starter, Wave Carver, are the top contenders in the Golden State Million.

Teller Cartel enters the Golden State Million on a two-race winning streak. He won the All American by a neck at 17-1, then returned to set the fastest qualifying time in the Golden State trials on Oct. 21, running 400 yards in 19.61 seconds.

"He really ran a good trial," Jones said. "It is difficult to run well after a hard All American. We're pretty pleased."

In Dispute has won 3 of 6 starts, including three of his last four, and was second in a minor stakes at Los Alamitos on Sept. 18. In the Golden State trials, In Dispute overcame a troubled start to win by three-quarters of a length.

Wave Carver was eighth in the Ed Burke Million Futurity in June and fifth in the Governor's Cup Futurity in July. He ended a three-race losing streak with a win in the Golden State trials.

Of the leading contenders, none has more at stake than Higher Fire. Owned by the Dutch Masters partnership, Higher Fire needs a win to remain eligible for the $1 million Los Alamitos Bonanza, which links the Ed Burke Memorial Futurity in June with the Golden State Million and the Los Alamitos Million in December. Higher Fire must win all three races to collect the bonus.

In the trials, Higher Fire finished a troubled third behind Teller Cartel. Higher Fire had the 10th and final qualifying time of 19.76 seconds.

Trainer Blane Schvaneveldt starts Jumpn Chic, who was second to Teller Cartel in the trials. Schvaneveldt is seeking a record sixth win in the Golden State Million Futurity.

Five stakes worth $100,000 or more

Saturday's program at Los Alamitos is one of the best of the year, as the track hosts the MBNA America Challenge Championship, a series of stakes races bringing together horses from throughout the West. Five of the races are worth $100,000 or more.

The most lucrative race is the $300,000 MBNA America Challenge Championship at 440 yards. Catchmeinyourdreams, who won the $200,000 Los Alamitos Championship on Oct. 15, will be favored.

The expected field of 10 will also include defending champion SLM Snowman, who won the 2004 Challenge Championship at Sam Houston Race Park. He has only one win in four starts this year, a qualifying stakes at Prairie Meadows in August.

The $100,000 MD Barns Challenge Championship at 870 yards features Prankster CF, who is by the Thoroughbred Favorite Trick. Trained by Jones, Prankster CF is unbeaten in six starts at the distance.