12/05/2003 12:00AM

XS Nitro in red-hot form

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The late-developing XS Nitro, coming off a track-record performance, is after his third straight win in the Grade 1, $125,000 Jess Burner Stakes for New Mexico-breds at Sunland Park on Sunday afternoon.

XS Nitro, unraced at 2, has three wins and three second-place efforts from his six starts this year while rising from the $10,000 claiming ranks to the stakes division. His latest effort, in the New Mexico Breeders Championship at SunRay Park, was his career-best race, as XS Nitro beat older rivals and set a track record of 17.20 seconds for 350 yards. He was moving fastest of all at the wire and should excel at the Jess Burner distance of 400 yards.

Before his Breeders Championship win, XS Nitro was second by a neck in the Grade 3 New Mexico Breeders Derby and won an allowance race. A $1,000 yearling purchase by Rita Danley, XS Nitro has now earned $68,743.

Capitan Miracle, a half-length behind XS Nitro in a dead heat for second place in the Breeders Championship, is back for another run. The consistent Capitan Miracle was on the lead before XS Nitro caught him and pulled away.

Capitan Miracle could be ready for a stronger performance on Sunday afternoon, because the Breeders Championship was his first start since running second in the Grade 3 Zia Derby on July 13.

An earner of $145,456, Capitan Miracle has started 13 times and never finished worse than third.

Champion of Champions field set

All American Derby winner Snow Big Deal and Refrigerator Handicap winner Special Task Force have declined their invitations to the Grade 1, $500,000 Champion of Champions on Dec. 13 at Los Alamitos. They will be replaced by Royaltime Classic and Zookie Street.

Royaltime Classic and Zookie Street had the fourth- and fifth-fastest times from the Griffin Trials on Nov. 21. The horses with the three fastest times automatically receive Champion of Champions invitations, and any other berths that open up in the Champion of Champions are filled from the Griffin trials.

Trainer Jack Brooks opted to run Special Task Force in the Grade 1, $400,000 The Championship at Sunland Park on Dec. 27.

"It would have been tough running in both races, and I just decided to take my best shot," Brooks said.

Royaltime Classic won the Grade 1, $100,000 Ford Distaff Challenge and was second to millionaire AB What a Runner in the Grade 1, $110,000 Mildred Vessels Handicap.

Zookie Street was third in the Grade 1, $300,000 MBNA America Challenge Championship.

Early line on Champions, Million

AB What a Runner is the 2-1 morning-line favorite for the Champion of Champions, and Hawkish is the 2-1 morning-line choice in the Grade 1, $1.3 million Los Alamitos Million. These are tentative odds established by Los Alamitos linemaker Ed Burgart, but he said it was doubtful they would change after the post-position draw.

Champion AB What a Runner won the 2002 All American Futurity and comes off a dominating win in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Derby.

Hawkish is attempting to rebound from a defeat in his Los Alamitos Million trial and will earn a $1 million bonus if he wins the Los Alamitos Million. He has won the first two legs of the $1 million Los Alamitos Bonanza - the Grade 1 Kindergarten, in track-record time, and the Ed Burke Memorial Futurity.

Los Al offers all-stakes pick three

Los Alamitos will offer a special pick three wager on three Grade 1 races next weekend - Friday's Los Alamitos Million, Saturday's Champion of Champions, and Sunday's Marathon National.

Past performance lines are available at www.losalamitos.com/laqhr/cofc/index.html.