09/28/2005 12:00AM

Ocean Runaway, Finding Nemo give Ekins 1-2 punch


Trainer Denny Ekins sends out his stable's top stakes winners, Ocean Runaway and Finding Nemo, in stakes at Los Alamitos on Friday and Saturday.

Ocean Runaway will be a strong favorite in Friday's Grade 2, $119,000 PCQHRA Breeders' Derby, while Finding Nemo will run in Saturday's Grade 1, $387,000 PCQHRA Breeders' Futurity.

Ocean Runaway, last year's champion 2-year-old, made a successful return to Los Alamitos from Ruidoso Downs by dominating his PCQHRA Derby trial by 1 3/4 lengths in 19.400 seconds for 400 yards, the fastest qualifying time by nearly .30 of a second. The second-fastest qualifier, Gulfstream Five, was second to Ocean Runaway in the trials. Gulfstream Five also was second in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby.

Ocean Runaway has thrived at Los Alamitos with three Grade 1 victories, including wins in two $1 million races, the Golden State Million and Los Alamitos Million.

At Ruidoso Downs, Ocean Runaway finished second in each of his three summer outings, including a second-place finish to three-time derby winner DM Shicago in the Grade 1 Rainbow Derby.

Facing Ocean Runaway, who has earned $1,228,531, are Chicks Like Us, winner of the 2004 Grade 1 PCQHRA Breeders' Futurity; Jumpn, runner-up in the Grade 1 Golden State Derby; and Lindas Dasher, a four-time runner-up in Grade 1 stakes.

Finding Nemo, the PCQHRA Breeders' Futurity favorite and the most consistently successful 2-year-old at Los Alamitos, will be making his fourth start in a Grade 1 futurity.

Finding Nemo is on a three-race winning streak that includes a nose win in the Grade 1 Governor's Cup Futurity in an excellent 17.35 seconds for 350 yards. He followed that victory with a neck win over Identity Theft in their PCQHRA Futurity trial with the fastest qualifying time of 17.510 seconds.

Quarter Horses return to Lone Star

Quarter Horse racing returns to Lone Star Park on Friday evening after a year's hiatus because the track hosted the 2004 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships last year, altering the Dallas-area track's racing schedule.

The Quarter Horse season runs through Nov. 27 on a Wednesday-through-Saturday schedule with a 5 p.m. Central first post time, except for a 1:35 p.m. first post on Nov. 27.

Heading the opening-night card will be Jack Zee Quick and Gone Celebrating in the Grade 3, $30,000 B.F. Phillips Jr. Handicap at 400 yards. Jack Zee Quick comes off a win in the Grade 3 Barnmaster Sprint Stakes, while Gone Celebrating has a second in the Grade 3 TQHA Classic Stakes from two 2005 starts.

The Quarter Horse racing landscape has changed since Lone Star's 2003 Quarter Horse season. Quarter Horse racing was added to the fall schedule at Louisiana Downs last year, and the opening of Zia Park in eastern New Mexico last weekend added a new venue. Those new meetings could mean fewer horses stabled at Lone Star Park.

"But, we always have a lot of shippers," said Lone Star's racing secretary, Jeanette Hughes. "There are a lot of Quarter Horses in Texas."

The average daily purse distribution for the Lone Star meet should be $60,000, according to Hughes. This does not include nominating and sustaining fees paid by horsemen into the rich futurities and derbies at Lone Star.

Heading the stakes schedule with $2.7 million in added-money are the Grade 1, $1 million-estimated Texas Classic Futurity on Nov. 26 and the Grade 1, $450,000-estimated Dash for Cash Futurity on Oct. 22.

The Grade 1, $100,000 Refrigerator Handicap for older horses on Nov. 25 carries an invitation to the Grade 1, $500,000 Champion of Champions for the winner.

Evangeline season to start on time

The 14-day fall Quarter Horse season at Evangeline Downs is set to start as scheduled on Saturday after the draw of the opening-night card was delayed from Sunday to Wednesday, an accommodation to horsemen dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Rita.

Opening night will be highlighted by the appearance of Magic Shiney, winner of the Grade 2 Mardi Gras Futurity, in the Grade 1, $317,931 Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Sale Futurity. Magic Shiney was also third in the Grade 3 Laddie Futurity and fifth in the Grade 2 Louisiana-Bred Futurity.

Magic Shiney, a winner of 5 of 7 career starts, set the fastest qualifying time from nine trials with a 17.805-second trial win.

The Breeders Sale Futurity is the only major stakes during a season that will offer $140,000 per day in overnight purses.

Racing will be held through Oct. 23 on a Thursday-through-Sunday schedule with a 6:45 p.m. Central first post.