12/12/2001 12:00AM

Three champion races

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Championships are on the line in three Grade 1 Quarter Horse stakes closing weekend at Los Alamitos.

On Friday night, the top two qualifiers in the Grade 1, $154,350 Southern California Derby are trained by by Donna McArthur.

On Saturday, trainer John Bassett will have four juveniles in the Grade 1, $1,256,000 Los Alamitos Million, Quarter Horse racing's second-richest race.

On Sunday, the 2001 world championship will be on the line in the Grade 1, $500,000 Champion of Champions, the sport's most prestigious and richest race for older runners.

McArthur will be after her second straight victory in the Southern California Derby with her two fastest qualifiers, All American Jewel and Tiny First Effort. Last year, she won with Tiny First Down, a sister to Tiny First Effort.

All American Jewel topped the qualifiers when he won the first of two trials by a head with a time of 19.760 seconds for the 400 yards. This year he has a win in the Grade 3 Town Policy Handicap and a second in the Grade 2 PCQHRA Breeders' Derby.

Tiny First Effort won the second trial by three-quarters of a length with a 17.765 time. She has Grade 3 wins this year in the Vandy's Flash Handicap and the Bayer Legend California Challenge. A year ago she was second in the Los Alamitos Million.

Bassett to start six in Million

Bassett has been the "money" trainer in Quarter Horse racing this year, with his horses finishing first and second in the $2.2 million All American Futurity - after winning seven All American trials - and qualifying four horses to the Los Alamitos Million after winning six Million trials. Joe Badilla rode each of the six Million trial winners.

Leading the Bassett foursome is Tres Seis, a colt nicknamed the Bulldog, who has strong championship credentials.

Tres Seis, owned by the Gwendolyn Eaves family, was second in the All American Futurity and then won the Grade 1 Golden State Futurity. He cruised to a 2 3/4-length trial win with the third-fastest qualifying time of 19.855 for the 400 yards.

Bassett will also saddle fastest qualifier Royaltime Classic, Grade 3 Phoenix Futurity winner Corona Music, and First Thoughts, who has placed in the top three in three Grade 1 futurities.

Badilla sustained a broken jaw when his mount broke down and fell Dec. 6. He had surgery on Dec. 7 but is expected to ride Tres Seis in the Million and All American Derby winner Stoli in the Champion of Champions. They would be his only mounts this weekend.

A Ransom faces Corona Kool again

The world championship in on the line when the defending world champion, A Ransom, meets this year's top mare, Corona Kool, in the Champion of Champions.

A Ransom, owned by John and Kathie Bobenreith, has only one defeat in the last two years - a head setback behind Corona Kool in this year's Grade 1 Los Alamitos Championship.

Corona Kool has only one defeat this year - a second to A Ransom in the Grade 1 Vessels Maturity.

A Ransom is trained by Connie Hall and Corona Kool is trained by McArthur.

A third female trainer, Janet VanBebber, could win the Champion of Champions with 1999 Champion of Champions winner Tailor Fit. He has Grade 1 wins this year in the Remington Park Championship and the MBNA America Challenge Championship.

- Legendary 90-year-old horseman Walter Merrick will sign copies of his recently released biography "Wire to Wire" on Saturday night at Los Alamitos from 6 to 7 p.m.

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