01/21/2004 12:00AM

Oak Tree Special selected world champion

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Four-time Grade 1 derby winner Oak Tree Special prevailed over Los Alamitos Championship winner Catchmeninyourdreams in a run-off vote to be named the 2003 quarter horse world champion in an announcement by the American Quarter Horse Association on Wednesday.

The voters are AQHA racing committee members and selected media members.

In a stunning reversal of history, Oak Tree Special is the first 3-year-old or older quarter horse world champion in 51 years that did not race at Los Alamitos Race Course during their championship year.

The previous older horse to be named world champion and not race at Los Alamitos was Maddon's Bright Eyes in 1951, the first year Los Alamitos had a pari-mutuel meet. Since then five 2-year-olds, each winners of the All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs, have been named world champion and after not racing at Los Alamitos.

Oak Tree Special's world championship also broke a string of seven straight years that the winner of the Grade 1 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 the Champion Of Champions it could have propelled her to the world title.

Raul Rubalcava's 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 - like AB What A Runner - suffered late-season setbacks. The colt won the Retama Park Derby, the Remington Park Derby, Dash For Cash Derby and the Texas Classic Derby.

In the Grade 1, $400,000 The Championship at Sunland Park, his final 2003 out and only meeting against older horses, he was sent off as the 2-1 favorite, running fifth before being disqualified placed ninth. In 2003, Oak Tree Special started 13 times for trainer Bobby Martinez and raced to 10 wins, a second and a third.

Here is a rundown of each division.

Two-year-olds

The juvenile-division championship was a showdown between the Louisiana-based Vals Fortune and the California-based Hawkish.

Again, the Los Alamitos-based horse was defeated. Vals Fortune received 45 votes for champion 2-year-old, defeating Hawkish by five votes.

Teddy Abrams' 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 Futurity and the PCQHRA Breeders Futurity. He set the Los Alamitos' 300-yard track record of 15.18 seconds while winning the Kindergarten.

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 the sophomore division was in the colt ranks with world champion Oak Tree Special prevailing over Champion of Champions winner The Down Side.

In the 3-year-old filly division, AB What A Runner won a championship for the second straight year, being named champion 3-year-old filly by an 86-2 margin. 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.

Silvered Eyes won the Grade 1 Rainbow Derby in Ruidoso Downs' track-record time while Frostys Money Man won four derbies.

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 scored three stakes wins, 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. The Enrique Gonzalez-owned farm also owns 3-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 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.

2003 Quarter Horse Champions

World Champion
Oak Tree Special*

2-year-old champions

Champion 2-year-old
Vals Fortune
Champion 2-year-old colt
Hawkish
Champion 2-year-old filly
Lett Her Zoom
Champion 2-year-old gelding
Vals Fortune

3-year-old champions

Champion 3-year-old
Oak Tree Special
Champion 3-year-old colt
Oak Tree Special
Champion 3-year-old filly
AB What A Runner
Champion 3-year-old gelding
Silvered Eyes*

Aged Champions

Aged Champion
Catchmeinyourdreams
Champion aged stallion
Panther Mountain
Champion aged mare
Royaltime Classic
Champion aged gelding
Catchmeinyourdreams

Distance champion (tie in runoff)

Heroes Call*
Sterling Sport*

Broodmare of the Year
Easy Lady Oak*

Champion owner
EG High Desert Farm*

Champion breeder
Dr. Ed Allred

Champion trainer
Paul Jones

Champion jockey
G.R. Carter

* runoff vote when nominee didn't receive 50 percent of original vote