12/12/2002 12:00AM

A Ransom running for history

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LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. - A Ransom is less than 22 seconds from joining one of Quarter Horse racing's most elite groups.

On Saturday night at Los Alamitos, the 6-year-old A Ransom will attempt to become the fifth horse to win at least two runnings of the Champion of Champions, a 440-yard stakes for older Quarter Horses.

A Ransom won the race in 2000. Those who have won the Champion of Champions more than once are Dash for Cash (1976-77), Refrigerator (1992-94), SLM Big Daddy (1997-98), and Tailor Fit (1999, 2001).

Among those A Ransom faces Saturday are three of Quarter Horse racing's leading older horses - Corona Kool, Streakin Sin Tacha, and Whosleavingwho.

The winner of the $500,000 race is expected to be named World Champion Running Quarter Horse, the equivalent of Horse of the Year.

Saturday's race will be A Ransom's third consecutive appearance in the Champion of Champions. Following his victory in 2000, which clinched the World Champion title,

A Ransom was heavily favored to repeat last year, but finished third.

Racing for John and Kathie Bobenrieth and trainer Connie Hall, A Ransom has not lost in five subsequent starts, and will be a heavy favorite on Saturday.

By design, A Ransom has not started since the Los Alamitos Championship on Oct. 12. "I'm not worried about the time off," Hall said. "He likes the time."

A Ransom will start in post 7, next to Streakin Sin Tacha (post 8), a three-time stakes winner in Texas this year. He is trained by Janet VanBebber, who won the 2001 Champion of Champions with Tailor Fit.

Corona Kool is the leading female in the 10-horse field. A 5-year-old mare, Corona Kool was scratched from the 2001 Champion of Champions after becoming upset in the starting gate. In three starts this year, she has won two stakes.

While A Ransom will be a heavy favorite, there will be plenty of support for Whosleavingwho following the scare he gave A Ransom in the 440-yard Los Alamitos Championship, which he lost by nose.

"I think the race was enough to prove to people that we can beat A Ransom," trainer Paul Jones said.

Still, Jones, the leading trainer at Los Alamitos, respects the favorite.

"A Ransom never makes a mistake," he said. "We're more worried about him than he is with us."

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