08/23/2006 12:00AM

Vickery pair should be up to the Challenge


It's a Challenge doubleheader weekend at Los Alamitos, with trainer Paul Jones sending out three of the five entrants in the Grade 3, $23,040 John Deere Distaff Challenge on Friday night and trainer Bret Vickery saddling two Grade 1 winners in the Grade 2, $72,000 MBNA America California Challenge on Saturday night.

These stakes were scheduled to have trials, but trials weren't needed when 10 horses entered the California Challenge trials and seven fillies and mares entered the Distaff Challenge trials. Those horses became eligible to enter back for the finals to each stakes.

The winners of these stakes will qualify to the corresponding Challenge Championship stakes at Lone Star Park on Nov. 11.

The Vickery-trained Gold Medal Jess and LDS Dash for Dylan should each enjoy the California Challenge distance of 440 yards.

Gold Medal Jess is a stakes winner at 550 yards and got his Grade 1 win when he won the Los Alamitos Winter Championship at 400 yards. In the MBNA America California Challenge, he will be making his first start since a seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Vessels Maturity as the 9-5 favorite when he lacked racing room.

"This horse really likes to race," said Vickery. "I really wish there had been trials. I worked him to get him ready."

LDS Dash for Dylan raced onto the national scene last fall when he used an impressive late run to win the Grade 1 Bayer Legend Derby Challenge. He qualified for this year's Grade 1, $300,000 MBNA America Challenge Championship by winning the MBNA America Northwest Challenge at Les Bois Park in his latest start.

With LDS Dash for Dylan in the Challenge Championship by virtue of his Les Bois Park win, Vickery still entered him in the California Challenge.

"Really, there was no other opportunity for him to run at $70,000," Vickery said. "He likes the distance and is ready to race."

Also in the California Championship are two 2005 champions, Apollitical Time and Catchmeinyourdreams.

Apollitical Time, the 2005 champion 3-year-old filly, returned from a layoff of more than seven months to win the Grade 2 California Breeders Matron Stakes on July 29. She earned her championship with Grade 1 wins in the Los Alamitos Super Derby and the Governors Cup Derby.

The defending California Challenge winner, Catchmeinyourdreams, earned the champion aged gelding title for the third straight year with 2005 wins in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Championship and the Grade 1 MBNA America Challenge Championship.

In the John Deere Distaff Challenge, four-time defending national champion trainer Paul Jones will saddle two-time Grade 1 winner Texas Chatterbox, three-time stakes winner Sassy Corona, and the stakes-placed Blazin Fire, who is coming off a daylight allowance victory.

Iowa-breds in futurity and derby

Okey I Am and Hez Royal Tea bring the two fastest qualifying times into the $58,400 Jim Bader Futurity for Iowa-breds on Saturday night at Prairie Meadows.

Okey I Am, second in the Iowa QHRA Sale Futurity, was timed in 19.957 seconds for 400 yards, while Hez Royal Tea raced to a 19.964-second trial win. Hez Royal Tea was third in the Iowa QHRA Sale Futurity.

In Saturday's $58,400 Polk County Derby for Iowa-breds, Brent and Karen Kay own the two fastest qualifiers, Fly to the Wire and Eye Dru Mi Pistol. Canterbury Derby winner Fly to the Wire is undefeated in six starts, and Eye Dru Mi Pistol was won his latest two starts.