Seventy-nine stakes winners, including 56 horses who have won graded events, are among the 145 runners pre-entered Thursday in the inaugural $3.6 million Sunshine Millions at Santa Anita Park and Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25.
The eight-race series matches California-breds and Florida-breds in eight weight-for-age contests, four at each of the tracks.The Sunshine Millions is the creation of Canadian auto parts magnate Frank Stronach, whose Magna Entertainment Corp. owns both Santa Anita Park and Gulfstream Park.Florida and California rank second and third, respectively, behind Kentucky, among American states in the size of annual foal crops.Competitively, there is great balance but it hasn't always been that way."I don't think California would have done well if the Sunshine Millions had been around 10 years ago," said Doug Burge, executive director of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association. "With the addition of several top stallions in the state and increasingly better mares for them to breed to, California is competitive in all levels now."The largest number of horses pre-entered in the eight Sunshine Millions races came in the three richest races. Twenty-three runners were listed for the $1 million Ocala Breeders Sales Classic for 4-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 mile, to be run at Gulfstream.The $750,000 Vessels Stallion Farm Distaff at Santa Anita, for older fillies and mares at 1 1 /16 mile, also drew 23 pre-entries. The $500,000 Barretts/CTBA Turf at 1 1/8 miles on grass, also to be contested at Santa Anita, attracted 26 runners, 13 each from California and Florida.Each Sunshine Millions race will have a maximum field of 12 participants. Final entries and official post-positions will be announced Jan. 20.In addition to the Classic, Gulfstream will offer the $350,000 Franks Farm Filly & Mare Turf, the $250,000 Padua Stables Filly & Mare Sprint and the $250,000 Ocala Stud Dash for 3-year-old colts and geldings.Besides the Distaff and Turf, Santa Anita debuts the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint and the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Oaks for 3-year-old fillies. The races will alternate between the tracks, with one going off every 15 minutes, starting with the Ocala Stud Dash from Gulfstream at 12:15 p.m. (PST) and ending with the Vessels Stallion Farm Distaff from Santa Anita at 2 p.m. (PST)A one-hour NBC live telecast from 12 noon to 1 p.m. (PST) will feature the Dash, the Classic and the Turf.One Grade I winner from each state will be in action at both Sunshine Millions sites.Debonair Joe, the rags-to-riches Cal-bred gelding who was claimed in September for $12,500 at Fairplex Park in Pomona, will be one of the favorites in the 6-furlong Sprint after his triumph in the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita on Dec. 26.Florida-bred Booklet earned a spot among America's leading 3-year-olds when he captured the Fountain Of Youth Stakes (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 16, 2002. Trained by John Ward, winner of the 2001 Kentucky Derby with Monarchos, Booklet is scheduled to contest the 1 1/8-mile Classic.Two of the biggest names on the roster of pre-entries are named to both the Classic and the Turf – Cal-bred Continental Red and Florida-bred Mayakovsky.Continental Red, winner of the San Luis Rey Handicap (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita last March, is scheduled to travel east from trainer Ian Jory's Hollywood Park barn to run in the Classic.Mayakovsky, winner of the 2002 Gotham Stakes on dirt at Aqueduct, is expected to remain at Santa Anita, where he is under the care of trainer Patrick Biancone, to contest the Turf.The 7-furlong Oaks at Santa Anita could produce one of the hottest contests of the day between Florida-bred fillies Atlantic Ocean and Ivanavinalot.Atlantic Ocean comes out of a score in the Santa Ysabel Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita on Jan. 5. Ivanavinalot was Florida's top 2-year-old filly of 2002, when she won five of six starts.The Sunshine Millions will be her first start since a minor infection caused her to be scratched from the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Arlington Park on Oct. 26.Sunshine Millions runners coming from Florida to California will travel Tuesday, Jan. 21. California runners going to Florida will make their cross-country journey on Wednesday, Jan. 22.Every "shipper" to either Santa Anita or Gulfstream Park who fails to finish in the top five in a Sunshine Millions race will receive $10,000.