11/19/2010 1:58PM

Trails offer final two spots for Champion of Champions


Sunday’s two trials for the $750,000 Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos on Dec. 11 have taken on greater significance in recent days.

On Thursday, Los Alamitos issued a statement saying that Double Down Special had been withdrawn from the Champion of Champions because of a respiratory infection. Double Down Special earned an automatic berth to the Champion of Champions with his victory in the All American Derby at Ruidoso Downs.

Double Down Special arrived at Los Alamitos last Sunday but had suffered from an erratic temperature and was taken to a veterinary clinic in San Diego County on Thursday. Trainer John Stinebaugh said that Double Down Special would not race again this year but would be campaigned in 2011.

His defection means that Sunday’s two 400-yard trials will yield at least two qualifiers to the Champion of Champions over 440 yards.

There are berths for 10 horses in the Champion of Champions, but eight are held by winners of major stakes through the year, a group led by defending champion Freaky.

In Sunday’s trials, run consecutively, there are two fields of seven. The two fastest times, regardless of finishing position, earn berths to the Champion of Champions.

The first leg, the eighth race on a 10-race program, features two runners trained by Paul Jones – Inseperable, who has not started since winning the 2009 All American Derby at Ruidoso Downs; and Stylish Jess Br, who was second in the 2009 Champion of Champions but was disqualified and placed seventh for causing interference.

Jones is guarded about Inseperable’s chances.

“I haven’t had him back quite as long as I’d like to have him,” he said. “I’d like to have given him a race before this. It will be a little tough, but we’re taking a one-shot deal to try to get in.”

The 2010 3-year-old stakes winners Headturner (Los Alamitos Winter and El Primero Del Ano derbys) and Whole Lot of Karma (Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Racing Association Derby) also start in the first division.

In the second division, Jones has two prominent starters in Separate Bet, who was promoted to third in the 2009 Champion of Champions but is winless in five starts this year; and Good Reason Sa, who won the Golden State Derby in August.