12/14/2001 12:00AM

A Ransom can join elite class


LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. - The list of consecutive winners of the Champion of Champions, which will be run for the 30th time on Sunday at Los Alamitos in Orange County, Calif., is one of the most elite in Quarter Horse Racing.

Dash for Cash was a repeat winner in 1976-77, Refrigerator won three times, 1992-94, and SLM Big Daddy was the most recent to repeat in 1997-98.

On Sunday, A Ransom will be favored to join that group, facing a top-class field of older horses in the 440-yard test.

Trained by Connie Hall, A Ransom has won 4 of 5 starts this year with his only loss a second, by a head, in an epic running of the Los Alamitos Championship on Sept. 22. Corona Kool, the 4-year-old filly who beat him, is his biggest threat in the Champion of Champions.

To qualify for the Champion of Champions, all 10 starters either won or placed in major stakes over the last year. The winner of Sunday's race is likely to be named World Champion, the Quarter Horse equivalent of Horse of the Year.

A Ransom earned a berth as the defending champion. Corona Kool won the Los Alamitos Championship, Hawkinson won the Los Alamitos Winter Championship, Tailor Fit (the 1999 Champion of Champions winners) won the Remington Park Championship, and Marmet won the Los Alamitos Derby in a 35-1 upset.

The other qualifiers - Fast for Money, Stoli, Meddlin in Money, You Scare Me, and Flare for Toby - were the fastest finishers from two time trials on Nov. 23.

A Ransom drew the rail, which was not a concern for Hall. A 5-year-old, A Ransom won the 2000 Champion of Champions from post 2 and has won other stakes in the last two years from the inside part of the track.

Owned by John and Kathie Bobenrieth of Costa Mesa, Calif., A Ransom has had a similar campaign to last year. The only difference was an added start between the Los Alamitos Championship and the Champion of Champions. On Nov. 9, he won the minor First Down Dash Handicap, scoring comfortably by 1 3/4 lengths.

From Hall's perspective, it was an ideal prep.

"I thought that one more race might help us," she said. "I was concerned that it was too long a break from the championship. I did breeze him the other day, just 300 yards to get some air extension in him. He's as good now as I've ever seen him."

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