11/03/2004 12:00AM

Title up for grabs in LosAl Super Derby


In the final two months of the year a number of matchups will determine the Quarter Horse divisional championships. This weekend Los Alamitos and Sam Houston will hold races that could influence year-end balloting.

On Friday night at Los Alamitos, Be a Bono, a top prospect for world champion, will meet Hawkish, 2003's champion 2-year-old colt, in the Grade 1, $604,450 Los Alamitos Super Derby. On Sunday night, fastest-qualifier Hardly Hateful meets two Grade 1 futurity winners in the Grade 1, $1 million Golden State Million for 2-year-olds.

On Saturday night at Sam Houston Race Park, in the MBNA America Challenge Championships, which consist of five Grade 1 races, leading juvenile Azoom is expected to run in the $150,000 Ford Juvenile Challenge Championship. Azoom has won three Grade 1 futurities and has earned $735,136. The 2003 co-world champion Oak Tree Special will run in another race on the card, the $300,000 MBNA America Challenge Championship.

Be a Bono comes into the Los Alamitos Super Derby off the first loss of his career, but handicappers can overlook that performance. It came in the derby trials, which had 17 starters in the two trials, and the horses running the 10 fastest times earned a berth in the derby. Be a Bono, making his first start in four months, closed boldly in the final 50 yards of the 400-yard trial to get within a head of the trial-winning A Regal Choice, and the two of them topped the qualifiers' list. A Regal Choice has the fastest qualifying time (19.695 seconds), and Be a Bono has the second-fastest (19.72).

Be a Bono started his career with seven consecutive victories, including Grade 1 wins this year in the Los Alamitos Winter Derby and a victory over older horses in the Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship, a race named after Be a Bono's owner.

A Regal Choice was awarded first place in the 2003 Los Alamitos Million via the disqualification of Corona for Me. That Grade 1 win is part of a current five-race winning streak at Los Alamitos.

Hawkish appears to be returning to his 2003 form, which resulted in three Grade 1 futurity wins and his championship title. He returned from a seven-month layoff in July to lose his first three starts and then win the Grade 2 PCQHRA Breeders Derby on Oct. 1, his first win in nearly a year. He then won in the second Los Alamitos Super Derby trial with a furious closing charge in 19.855 seconds, the fourth-fastest qualifying time.

Hardly Hateful could love Golden State

Hardly Hateful, runner-up in the Grade 1, $600,000 Rainbow Futurity, is well positioned for her first stakes win, going into the Golden State Million as the fastest qualifier.

Hardly Hateful, one of five finalists from the Paul Jones stable, moved strongly in the final 100 yards of her Golden State trial to win by a half-length in 19.59 seconds, the fastest time from the 85 juveniles in the 10 trials. A daughter of 1999 champion distance horse Hateful Hanna, Hardly Hateful was the second-fastest qualifier to the Rainbow Futurity and finished third in her All American Futurity trial behind All American fastest qualifier Mighty Invictus and All American winner DM Shicago.

Jones, who had 29 trial starters, will also send out Louisiana Eye Opener, Fantastic Jessie, Get Down Perry, and Dutch Shultz.

Challenging for role of favorite in the Golden State Million will be Governor's Cup Futurity winner Ocean Runaway and PCQHRA Breeders Futurity winner Chicks Like Us.

Ocean Runaway rolled to a one-length trial win in 19.63 seconds, the third-fastest qualifying time.

Chicks Like Us, who is riding a four-race winning streak, capped a half-length trial win in 19.64 seconds. Joining Chicks Like Us from the Jaime Gomez stable is second-fastest qualifier Like Frankie and Me, winner of his trial in 19.60 seconds.