01/20/2004 12:00AM

Oak Tree Special selected world champion

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Four-time Grade 1 derby winner Oak Tree Special prevailed over Catchmeninyourdreams, winner of the Los Alamitos Championship, in a run-off vote to be named the 2003 Quarter Horse world champion.

The results of voting for 2003 Quarter Horse champions in all divisions were announced Wednesday by the American Quarter Horse Association. Voting is done by AQHA racing committee members and selected media members.

Oak Tree Special is the first 3-year-old or older Quarter Horse World Champion in 52 years who did not race at Los Alamitos Race Course.

Oak Tree Special's world championship also broke a string of seven straight years that the winner of the Champion of Champions was honored as world champion. The Down Side won the 2003 Champion of Champions and was second to Oak Tree Special in the voting for champion 3-year-old colt by a sizable 68-17 margin.

The Down Side's upset victory in the Champion of Champions probably helped Oak Tree Special's championship cause. If Champion of Champions favorite AB What a Runner, named champion 3-year-old filly, had won that race, it could have propelled her to the world title.

Oak Tree Special, also named champion 3-year-old and 3-year-old colt, used a consistent derby campaign to win the championship during a year when many early-season favorites - such as AB What a Runner - suffered late-season setbacks. Oak Tree Special won the Retama Park Derby, the Remington Park Derby, Dash for Cash Derby, and the Texas Classic Derby.

Overall, Oak Tree Special started 13 times, collecting 10 wins, a second, and a third. He is trained by Bobby Martinez.

Here is a rundown of each division.

Two-year-olds

In a showdown between the Louisiana-based Vals Fortune and the California-based Hawkish, Vals Fortune received 45 votes for champion 2-year-old, defeating Hawkish by five votes.

Vals Fortune lost his career debut by a nose and then reeled off 10 straight victories, including six Louisiana-bred stakes, to conclude his season. He was also named champion 2-year-old gelding.

Hawkish was named champion 2-year-old colt after scoring Grade 1 futurity wins in the Kindergarten, Ed Burke Memorial, and the PCQHRA Breeders.

Kansas Futurity winner Lett Her Zoom was named champion 2-year-old filly in a run-off with None as Easy.

Three-year-olds

The most-anticipated competition in this division was in the colt ranks with Oak Tree Special prevailing over The Down Side.

In the 3-year-old filly division, AB What a Runner won a championship for the second straight year. She won the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Derby and defeated older mares in the Grade 1 Mildred Vessels Handicap.

Silvered Eyes defeated Frostys Money Man in a run-off vote for the champion 3-year-old gelding title.

Aged horses

Catchmeinyourdreams lost in the run-off vote for world champion, but was honored as champion aged horse and champion aged gelding. He won the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Championship and had three Grade 1 second-place finishes, including the Champion of Champions.

Panther Mountain won the MBNA America Challenge Championship and was named champion aged stallion. He lost in the run-off vote to Catchmeinyourdreams for champion aged horse.

Royaltime Classic captured three stakes, including the Grade 1 Ford Challenge Championship, to be the overwhelming choice as champion aged mare.

Distance horse

Heros Call and Sterling Sport became the first horses to share the champion distance horse title since the award was started in 1987.

The 3-year-old Heros Call received one more vote than Sterling Sport in the initial balloting, but they finished in a dead heat in the run-off voting.

Heros Call won the Grade 1 Marathon National and the Gold Rush 870 Derby.

Sterling Sport won the Grade 1 John Deere Challenge Championship and the Grade 3 John Deere New Mexico Challenge.

Horsemen awards

Dr. Ed Allred was named the champion breeder for the ninth time in the past 13 years. He is the breeder of champion aged horse Catchmeinyourdreams and champion 2-year-old colt Hawkish.

Hawkish's owner, HG High Desert Farms, was named the champion owner. Owned by Enrique Gonzalez, HG High Desert also owns three-time 2003 stakes winner Magic and Rhythm.

Paul Jones was named the champion trainer for the third straight year. The dominant trainer at Los Alamitos, Jones won 205 races last year (27 stakes) and set up a stable at Ruidoso Downs for the first time last summer, winning the Grade 1 Rainbow Futurity.

G.R. Carter Jr. won his third champion jockey title after winning 161 races (19 stakes) last year. He rode seven Grade 1 stakes winners, including champions AB What a Runner and Sterling Sport.