12/29/2004 1:00AM

New procedure to determine championships


When the ballots are cast to determine the 2004 champion Quarter Horses next week, there will be fewer voters trying to distinguish between a larger number of horses on the ballot than in previous years.

The changes were proposed in June by a task force of horsemen, media members, and racing officials who met in Dallas, and in November, the proposal was approved by the American Quarter Horse Association's racing committee and racing council.

Previously, the 92-member AQHA racing committee voted on champions. Now, the champions will be determined by 25 voters - 10 racing committee members elected by the full committee, nine AQHA members appointed by the racing council, three media members appointed by the council, and three racing officials appointed by the council.

Under the prior system, the task force was concerned that some racing committee members did not stay current with stakes results because their expertise was in other areas, such as breeding, bloodlines, or track management. The new voting system allows the racing committee and racing council to appoint voters who closely follow Quarter Horse racing.

Racing committee members still have a strong voice in the naming of champions. The 10 committee members who become championship voters will have staggered terms of up to three years, providing a continual flow of committee members into the voting ranks. Also, since virtually all racing committee members are AQHA members, other committee members could become voters if they are named by the racing council.

The task force, racing committee, and racing council also addressed complaints that deserving horses were not placed on the ballot.

The changes enacted for this year's voting place on the ballot all Grade 1 stakes winners and the top five to 10 money earners in each division, depending on the division. Also, any racing committee member can nominate any horse that started during the year.

The voting deadline is Jan. 6, and the 2004 champions will be announced at 6 p.m. on Jan. 19 in Oklahoma City in conjunction with the Heritage Place winter sale.

Jones starts year with strong hand in Cypress

It may be a new year on Saturday, but it will be the same old story of domination at Los Alamitos when trainer Paul Jones sends out three horses, including Golden State Million third-place finisher Dutch Schultz, in the Grade 3, $25,000 Cypress Handicap.

Last year, Jones, the two-time defending national champion, won a record 281 races, including 34 stakes. He won his seventh Los Alamitos training title with 253 victories.

Dutch Shultz reached top form at Los Alamitos last fall after racing at Remington Park and Ruidoso Downs. In his four most recent starts - all at Los Alamitos - Dutch Shultz has an allowance win and two second-place finishes in Grade 1 futurity trials to go along with his third-place effort in the Grade 1, $1 million Golden State Million.

Jones will also be represented by Macs Gonzo, third in the Pomona Juvenile Championship, and Fantastic Jessie, who has finished in the top two in five of nine starts.