12/23/2005 12:00AM

Sharp invaders challenge Gottobes Cat


Los Alamitos newcomers Cruzin for Lyndsie and Strawkins bring winning streaks into Monday's $25,000 Holiday Handicap, the final 2-year-old stakes of the year at Los Alamitos and opening night of the 2005-06 season.

After Monday, the track races on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday nights before resuming its normal Thursday-through-Sunday night schedule nest week.

Cruzin for Lyndsie is making his Los Alamitos debut after winning four straight races, including Grade 3 wins in the Diamond Classic Futurity at Wyoming Downs and the AQRA Turf Paradise Futurity.

Strawkins, winner of his last two starts, is making his first appearance for three-time national champion trainer Paul Jones after winning the Grade 3 Pot O Gold Futurity at Sun Downs in Washington and the Grade 2, $100,000 Canada Quarter Horse Cup in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.

Gottobes Cat, also trained by Jones, has the advantage of having won a stakes at Los Alamitos. She captured the California Breeders Freshman Stakes and is making her first start since finishing seventh as the 4-5 choice in her Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Racing Association Breeders Futurity trial.

The 201-date Los Alamitos season will offer a $75,000-guaranteed early pick four, on the first through fourth races, on Friday and Saturday nights. There will be a $50,000-guaranteed early pick four on Thursday and Sunday nights.

The new season starts with a 15 percent purse increase for all overnight races. This translates to open allowance races having a purse of $16,700 for a 10-horse field. Conditioned allowance races with 10 horses will feature a purse of $15,700.

Purses for claiming races and maiden special weight races will be increased a minimum of $1,000.

There will be substantial purse increases for several important Grade 1 stakes in 2006. The Los Alamitos Million will have a $2 million purse and, fittingly, a new name - the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity - for its Dec. 8 running. The Ed Burke Million on June 24 is expected to have a $1.15-million purse, and the Golden State Million on Nov. 5 is projected to have a $1.3-million purse.

The purse for the Champion of Champions on Dec. 9 will be raised to $600,000 from $500,000, and the Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap on Sept. 22 will be Quarter Horse racing's richest stakes for fillies and mares, with a $250,000 guaranteed purse, up from $136,270 in 2005.

These purse increases are part of total stakes purses estimated at $10.23 million, including horsemen's payments.

Perennial leading trainer Jones should retain his title after setting a Los Alamitos record for wins in each of the previous five years. He has 305 Quarter Horse wins this year and his horses have earned more than $6.3 million.

Jockey Cody Jenson returns after winning his first Los Alamitos riding title with 152 wins, surpassing 2004 riding champion Hector Cuevas's 147 wins. Cuevas led the standings for most of they year before being sidelined on Nov. 25 with a back injury and missing the rest of the season.