02/04/2004 12:00AM

Jones sends out his top shooters in trials


The premier stakes horses from the stable of Paul Jones, the two-time defending national champion Quarter Horse trainer, will have horses this weekend in the trials to the Grade 1, $200,000 Los Alamitos Winter Derby and the Grade 1, $200,000 Los Alamitos Winter Championship.

The 10 fastest qualifiers from Friday's four Winter Derby trials will return for the Feb. 27 finals, and the 10 fastest qualifiers from Saturday's two Winter Championship trials will race in the Feb. 28 finals. The trials for both stakes are at 400 yards.

A strong showing in this weekend's trials and the subsequent finals would be the first big step for Jones to match or surpass his stellar 2003 record. Last year he won 27 stakes races and his horses earned $4.9 million, breaking the previous record by $1.5 million.

The 2003 Winter Derby foreshadowed Jones's yearlong dominance when horses he trained finished first, second, fourth, and fifth.

The Jones contingent in Friday's four derby trials has the credentials to equal that performance. His 15 trial starters are led by A Regal Choice, Planet Holland, and Cash for Kas.

In the third trial, A Regal Choice will be making his first start since his controversial win Dec. 12 in the Grade 1, $1.3 million Los Alamitos Million, the richest Quarter Horse race in California. He crossed the finish line in second place, but was moved up to the win after Corona for Me was disqualified from first to second for interference. The incident was a minor bump in the final yards, but the margin of victory was just a nose, so the stewards reversed the order of finish.

A $415,000 yearling purchase, A Regal Choice earned $535,860 of his $577,916 career earnings in the Million.

Planet Holland, also in the third trial, is making his first appearance at Los Alamitos since finishing second in his career debut on April 13. Last summer at Ruidoso Downs, he became a championship contender with a win in the Grade 1 Rainbow Futurity (following a 400-yard track record of 19.302 seconds in the Rainbow Futurity trials) and a third-place finish in the Grade 1 All American Futurity.

Cash for Kas, who will run in the second trial, was the third-place finisher in the Million and won the Denim N Diamonds Handicap on Jan. 9. She won the Denim N Diamonds by three-quarters of a length in a swift 17.501 seconds for the 350 yards, and that race should have her in sharp form for the derby trials.

The first trial matches Willie Works and Be a Bono.

Willie Works, from the barn of Blane Schvaneveldt, the all-time leading trainer at Los Alamitos, is riding a streak of three straight stakes wins. He won the California Juvenile Challenge Championship and the Grade 1 American Airlines Juvenile Challenge Championship, then came back from a two-month break to take the 350-yard Cypress Stakes on Jan. 3 in an excellent 17.327 seconds.

Be a Bono will be making his first start since winning the Grade 1, $864,500 Golden State Futurity, the richest victory ever for Hall of Fame owner Spencer Childers, 91.

In Saturday's two Winter Championship trials, Jones will saddle Meteoric for the first time. Jones and several partners - Kim Kessinger, Jim Geiler, Ramich Farms, and Steve Burns - purchased the 4-year-old gelding for an undisclosed six-figure price in January.

"We paid a nice sum for Meteoric, a good sum considering he's a gelding," Jones said. "We are very high on him. We feel he can be one of the best older horses at Los Alamitos. We worked him 350 yards, and it was one of the most impressive [works] I've seen here." Meteoric covered the distance in 17.70 seconds on Jan. 17.

Meteoric has earned $514,000 and won two minor stakes, but has shown the raw speed to have won more stakes races. He flipped in the paddock before finishing third in the 2002 All American Futurity, and finished second as the favorite in the 2002 Los Alamitos Million. In last year's Grade 1 Southern California Derby Dec. 14, his most recent start, he finished fifth.

Also in the championship trials are Buccaneer Beach, the third-place finisher in the Champion of Champions, and Mr Pie Chick, winner of the Golden State Derby.