02/22/2006 1:00AM

Value the Man faces Jones crew

Scott Martinez
Whosleavingwho has won six stakes at the Winter Championship distance.

Los Alamitos Million winner Value the Man will be confronted by the stiff challenge of five Paul Jones-trained 3-year-olds in the Grade 1, $210,550 Los Alamitos Winter Derby at 400 yards on Friday night.

Value the Man gained his sole Grade 1 stakes win when he upset 2005's champion 2-year-old, Higher Fire, in the Los Alamitos Million on Dec. 9. Value the Man's trainer, John Bassett, then freshened the gelding, bringing him back for a second-place finish to Volcom in the Winter Derby trials on Feb. 4. The rest and a race should set Value the Man up for a peak performance in the Winter Derby.

Jones will saddle three of the five fastest qualifiers: Strawkins, Volcom and Wave Carver.

Jones sent out Strawkins to his fourth straight win when he won his Winter Derby trial by three-quarters of a length in 19.460 seconds for 400 yards. Strawkins joined the Jones stable last fall after becoming the top juvenile in Canada with a win in the Grade 2 Canada Cup Futurity.

Volcom, winner of 6 of 8 career starts, also ran his winning streak to four when he won his Winter Derby trial. He defeated Value the Man by a neck in the second-fastest time of 19.570 seconds.

The most dangerous of the Jones quintet could be Wave Carver, winner of the Los Alamitos Juvenile - a race for non-qualifiers to the Los Alamitos Million - and second-place finisher in the Golden State Million. He finished a neck behind Higher Fire in the Golden State Million.

Jones is also represented by the Ruidoso Futurity fifth-place finisher Mia Jones and Winter Derby trial winner Separate Encounter.

Whosleavingwho after three-peat

The venerable 8-year-old Whosleavingwho goes for his third win in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Championship as the elder competitor in the $204,350 stakes at 400 yards on Saturday night.

Whosleavingwho, the 2002 co-world champion, excels at 400 yards, with six stakes wins at the distance. In September, he won the Grade 1 Go Man Go Handicap at 400 yards.

Trainer Bret Vickery saddles a pair of late-running 4-year-olds: the fastest qualifier, Gold Medal Jess, and Grade 1 winner LDS Dash for Dylan.

Gold Medal Jess won two minor stakes in December at Los Alamitos and topped the Winter Championship qualifying list when he won his 400-yard trial in 19.49 seconds over Like Frankie And Me.

LDS Dash for Dylan won the Grade 1 Bayer Legend Derby Challenge in 2005 with one of the year's most memorable late rallies. He was cut off in his Winter Derby trial, resulting in the disqualification of Apollos Favorite, but still qualified with a 19.690-second time. He crossed the finish line in fourth place and was moved up to third after the disqualification.

Like Frankie and Me has always been dangerous at the highest level. At 2, in 2004, he was second in the Grade 1 Golden State Million to Ocean Runaway and last year, at 3, he was second to Ocean Runaway in the Grade 1 Champion of Champions. Ocean Runaway was a champion in 2004 and 2005.

The winner of the Los Alamitos Winter Championship receives the year's first invitation to the Grade 1, $600,000 Champion of Champions.