06/21/2006 12:00AM

Trial losers tough in Vessels


Gold Medal Jess, the Los Alamitos Winter Championship winner, and Be a Bono, the 2004 world champion and defending Vessels Maturity winner, were beaten in their trials but still figure as the dangerous horses in the Grade 1, $137,700 Vessels Maturity on Friday night at Los Alamitos.

The winner of the Vessels Maturity earns an invitation to the Grade 1, $600,000 Champion of Champions on Dec. 9 at Los Alamitos.

Gold Medal Jess received a Champion of Champions invitation by virtue of his victory in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Champion-ship on Feb 25. He was then rested and returned to run second by a nose in his June 2 Vessels Maturity trial behind fastest-qualifier Apollos Favorite, who was timed in 19.675 seconds for the 400 yards.

For Apollos Favorite, it was her first victory since winning the Grade 2 Las Damas Handicap on Oct. 14.

Gold Medal Jess "needed the race," said his trainer, Bret Vickery, after the race. "He's never run his best after a layoff, so I was pretty happy with his race. You have to give credit to Apollos Favorite. She's a tough mare. She ran big in the trials to the Winter Championship, and we were fortunate to beat her in the final. She was big tonight again."

Gold Medal Jess showed stakes-winning versatility leading up to his first Grade 1 win in the 400-yard Winter Championship. He won the 350-yard A Ransom Handicap and then stretched out to the full length of the straightaway to win the 550-yard Paul Ford Handicap in successive starts in December.

Be a Bono won last year's Vessels Maturity and Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship, a race named after his owner and breeder, in consecutive starts. During his 2004 world championship campaign, he won three Grade 1 races and was second by a nose in the Champion of Champions.

Be a Bono returned from a seven-month layoff to finish third in his Vessels Maturity trial behind Aladim Bryan SA and Lindas Dasher.

"He felt good tonight," said Be a Bono's jockey G.R. Carter, after the trial. "He felt a little sluggish away from the gate but once he found his stride he looked pretty good. He looks like he could get back to being the old Bono after all."

Aladim Bryan SA is in sharp form following a win in the Grade 3 Kaweah Bar Handicap and a neck win in his Vessels Maturity trial.

"I felt like he was training great, so I'm not surprised that he did so well," said trainer Felix Gonzalez. "Lindas Dasher and Be a Bono had not raced this year, so that worked to our advantage."

Aladim Bryan SA set the 550-yard track record of 26.54 seconds on Jan. 14 when he defeated Gold Medal Jess by a head in the Bellflower Handicap.

Blues Girl Too meets FDD Dynasty

Blues Girl Too, who threatened the 350-yard track record with her trial win, and second-fastest qualifier FDD Dynasty head the Grade 1, $1,142,000 Ed Burke Million Futurity on Saturday night at Los Alamitos.

Blues Girl Too and FDD Dynasty won the first two of 15 trials on June 10, and the six-fastest qualifiers came out of those two races, the strongest trials on the program.

Blues Girl Too raced to her second win from two starts when she pulled away to win by one length in 17.240 seconds, just .02 of a second off Corona Chick's 14-year-old track record at the frequently raced distance of 350 yards. Blues Girl Too won her maiden race by 2 1/2 lengths in her first start when she raced 300 yards in 15.26 seconds, the same time that Vachetta posted winning the Grade 1 Kindergarten.

FDD Dynasty won his trial in 17.295 seconds to defeat the highly regarded First Down Morn by a half-length. FDD Dynasty won his first start by one length.

First Down Morn, the third-fastest qualifier with a 17.360-second time, was the 1-2 trial favorite after winning his maiden by 1 1/4 lengths at first asking.

Fishers Tale figures in Bayer Derby

The co-fastest qualifier Fishers Tale, second in the 2005 Ed Burke Million, should be favored to gain his first stakes win in the Grade 3, $46,350 Bayer Legend California Derby Challenge on Sunday night at Los Alamitos.

Fishers Tale was one of the premier juveniles at Los Alamitos last summer, when he won his first two starts and then finished second to champion Higher Fire in the Ed Burke Million. Third in the Ed Burke Million was Finding Nemo, who went on to win the Grade 1 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity.

Last fall, Fishers Tale finished fourth in the Grade 1 Golden State Million behind Higher Fire, Los Alamitos Million Juvenile winner Wave Carver, and All American Futurity winner Teller Cartel.

Fishers Tale returned from a six-month layoff to win the first of two Derby Challenge trials in the fastest qualifying time of 19.755 seconds for 400 yards.

Sharing fastest-qualifier honors is Jess a Princess, a neck winner of the other trial. She won her maiden on April 14 for her only other victory.