02/23/2005 12:00AM

One More Habit the best of Jones sextet


Trainer Paul Jones, winner of two of the four runnings of the Los Alamitos Winter Derby, has an excellent chance to add to that impressive record at Los Alamitos on Friday night as he saddles six of the 10 horses chasing the $232,900 purse in the year's first Grade 1 derby.

The Los Alamitos Winter Derby brings together an exceptional field, culled from four trials on Feb. 5. Nine of the 10 finalists are either a graded stakes winner or qualified to a Grade 1 futurity in 2004.

Heading Jones's six-horse contingent is fastest qualifier One More Habit, fourth-place finisher in the Grade 1, $1.5 million Los Alamitos Million. That effort, behind champion Ocean Runaway, is One More Habit's sole setback in her last five starts. In her last two starts she won the Denim N Diamonds Handicap while enduring a rough trip and cruised to a half-length victory in her Winter Derby trial. Her trial time was 19.60 seconds for the 400 yards.

Jones will also send out two-time stakes winner Feel the Roar, Autumn Handicap winner Lethal Bay, All American Futurity third-place finisher Devons Signature, Cypress Handicap winner Dutch Schultz, and Ruidoso Futurity sixth-place finisher Look Forward.

Trainer Denny Ekins has the dangerous pair of Grade 1 Juvenile Challenge Championship winner Dash on a Mission and the consistent Slighty Icy. Slighty Icy ran a close third in the Denim N Diamonds.

Second-fastest qualifier Gulfstream Five qualified for the finals of three Grade 1 futurities and was a troubled runner-up behind One More Habit in their trial.

Champs vs. trial winners at Los Al

The champions Whosleavingwho and Catchmeinyourdreams will be challenged by trial winners Jesse James Jr and Apollos Favorite in the Grade 1, $252,200 Los Alamitos Winter Championship on Saturday night at Los Alamitos.

The winner of the 400-yard Winter Championship receives a berth in the Grade 1, $500,000 Champion of Champions on Dec. 10.

Whosleavingwho, the 2002 world co-champion, and the two-time defending champion aged gelding Catchmeinyourdreams finished first and second in their Winter Championship trial. Whosleavingwho won it by a nose.

Catchmeinyourdreams defeated Whosleavingwho in Grade 1 races last fall with wins in the Go Man Go Handicap and the Los Alamitos Championship. In each of those races Whosleavingwho was the second-place finisher.

Jesse James Jr and Apollos Favorite, both 4, will be facing their sternest tests after winning their trials with the top two qualifying times. Jesse James Jr dominated his trial by 1 3/4 lengths in a time of 19.53 seconds for 400 yards. Apollos Favorite was an upset winner of his trial in 19.69 seconds.

Special Task Force live for bonus

Fastest qualifier Special Task Force will remain in contention for a $100,000 bonus if he wins the Grade 2, $74,976 West Texas Maturity on Saturday at Sunland Park.

The bonus goes to the connections of any horse who can win the Grade 3 KHEY Handicap, West Texas Maturity, and the Grade 1 MBNA America New Mexico Challenge Championship on April 3.

Special Task Force defeated Push the Pace in the KHEY and then defeated that rival again in the West Texas Maturity trial, by a neck, with the fastest-qualifying time of 19.59 seconds for 400 yards. Push the Pace, winner of the 2004 New Mexico Challenge Championship, is the second-fastest qualifier with a 19.63-second time.

Mardi Gras at Evangeline

Fastest qualifiers Chase Me to the End and Hez Jet Black head the Grade 2, $132,438 Mardi Gras Futurity, the year's first futurity, for Louisiana-breds at the new Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, La., on Saturday. The inaugural 21-day meet runs through March 27.

The two juveniles made their career debuts in the Mardi Gras trials on Feb. 5, and each won with identical 15.567-second times for 300 yards. Chase Me to the End looked strong, winning by a length, while Hez Jet Black was a half-length winner.

Also on Saturday, fastest-qualifier Fly by Patriot, a top-three finisher in nine of 10 starts, leads the Grade 3, $61,396 Mardi Gras Derby field after winning his trial by two lengths.