11/27/2002 1:00AM

Stakes winners battle in richest race in Texas


Closing weekend for the Quarter Horse meet at Lone Star Park is highlighted Saturday by the Grade 1, $1,061,703 Texas Classic Futurity, the richest race in Texas history. West Texas Futurity winner Eye Opening Episode is one of seven graded stakes winners in the race.

Eye Opening Episode, owned by Sandy Erwin and trained by Jose Luis Dominguez, has earned $484,399 from a consistent futurity campaign that started with a win in the Grade 1 West Texas Futurity in April at Sunland Park. A gelding, Eye Opening Episode has fared well on every track he has raced, with a very close second to AB What a Runner in the Grade 1, $1.9 million All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs and a second in the Grade 1 Dash for Cash Futurity at Lone Star Park.

The second-ranked 2-year-old in the weekly American Quarter Horse Association poll, Eye Opening Episode followed up his second-place finish in the Dash for Cash Futurity by setting the fastest qualifying time for the Texas Classic Futurity on Nov. 16. He raced the 400 yards in 19.554 seconds for the quickest time of 146 juveniles in 15 trials.

The Texas Classic Futurity field includes Grade 1 Heritage Place Futurity winner Fast First Prize, Grade 2 Lazy E Futurity winner Chicks Cartel, Grade 2 LQHBA Sale Futurity winner Jess Maid Magic, Grade 3 Northlands Futurity winner Capones Vault, Grade 3 American Airlines East Challenge winner First Place Win, and Grade 3 Oklahoma Horseman's Association Futurity winner Apollos Ten Bears.

Two-time Grade 1 derby winner A Real Man meets Dash for Cash Derby winner First Regards in the Grade 1, $315,097 Texas Classic Derby on Friday night at Lone Star Park.

A Real Man, the top-ranked 3-year-old gelding, became a national force last spring at Remington Park where he won the Grade 1 Remington Park Derby and the Grade 1 Heritage Place Derby. He was third in the Grade 1 All American Derby at Ruidoso Downs on Sept. 1 and then topped the Texas Classic Derby qualifiers on Nov 15. He won his Texas Classic Derby trial in 21.361 seconds for the 440 yards, the fastest time of five trials.

First Regards will be trying to give trainer Jack Brooks his second Dash for Cash Derby-Texas Classic Derby double. He is the only trainer to complete the double, winning both races with champion Dashing Perfection in 1997.

First Regards won the Grade 1, $149,000 Dash for Cash Derby by a neck on Oct. 18.

* A strong undercard on Friday night includes the Grade 2, $50,000 Refrigerator Handicap for older horses at 440 yards. The field includes two-time world champion Tailor Fit, second in two Grade 1 stakes this year, and All American Gold Cup winner Significant Speed.

Top juveniles in Los Al Million trials

All American Futurity winner AB What a Runner and two-time Grade 1 futurity winner Morning Snow head a strong cast in nine trials to the Grade 1, $1,313,700 million Los Alamitos Million at Los Alamitos on Friday night.

The finals will be the richest race ever at Los Alamitos.

AB What a Runner, the nation's top-ranked juvenile, will be making her first start since narrowly holding on to win the Grade 1, $1.9 million All American Futurity on Labor Day. Trained by Bret Vickery, AB What a Runner ran the fastest 440 yards ever by a 2-year-old when she set the fastest qualifying time to the All American Futurity with a 20.993-second time.

M?orning Snow, trained by Donna McArthur, is after the $1 million Los Alamitos Bonanza. The sport's third-ranked juvenile, Morning Snow won the Grade 1 Kindergarten and the Grade 1 Ed Burke Futurity at Los Alamitos. If she can add the Los Alamitos Million to her resume she will earn the $1 million Bonanza.