Among the early Florida nominees for the Classic are John Oxley's Booklet, winner of the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. I) this year; nine-time stakes winner Best of the Rest; and $2.5-million earner Sir Bear. Cal-bred Classic nominees include Continental Red, winner of the first NTRA Great State Challenge Classic; multiple-stakes winner Grey Memo; and Tizbud, a full brother to 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow."Racing is competition, and we want to get major excitement," Magna Entertainment chairman Frank Stronach said in an interview Dec. 17. "We hope to get more excitement in racing, as well as new fans. We'll try to get some spillover so it gets into the community to see who has the best horses."The provisions of the event financially reward unplaced starters in an effort to encourage coast-to-coast shipping and full fields.
The first Sunshine Millions has generated interested in the racing community, and also with a national television network.Magna Entertainment, which owns Gulfstream Park in Florida and Santa Anita Park in California, is negotiating with NBC to televise races, some live and some on tape, on Jan. 25, 2003, the day of the two-track event. Sue Floyd, a spokeswoman for Magna, said Dec. 19 the negotiations are ongoing.Purses will range from $1 million for the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream to $250,000 for four other events. Early-bird nominations for the eight-race series closed Dec. 9 with more than 300. Regular nominations close Jan. 11, with pre-entries to be taken Jan. 15.