01/31/2003 12:00AM

Cal. breeding: Changes to Millions being considered


ARCADIA, Calif. - Officials with the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association are considering suggesting a variety of changes for the Sunshine Millions series for California-breds and Florida-breds when the event is reviewed in coming weeks.

Doug Burge, the executive director of the CTBA, said his organization and the Thoroughbred Owners of California, their counterparts in Florida, and Magna Entertainment will hold discussions in coming months on the new series, which was held for the first time at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita on Jan. 25.

Magna Entertainment, the parent company of Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita, has repeatedly stated that it wants the Sunshine Millions to become an annual fixture on the racing calendar.

Some ideas being discussed by the CTBA are a proposal to keep all eight races in the series at one track, alter purse levels, and change some race distances.

The eight Millions races were held at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita in less than two hours on Jan. 25. The condensed time frame was designed to present three races on NBC and to keep the attention of simulcast customers.

"Had there been more time between races, the handle could have been higher," Burge said.

Instead of four races at each track, one proposal would be to have a home-and-home series, Burge said.

"We could have all eight at Santa Anita in 2004 and the same at Gulfstream Park the following year," he said.

Burge said the purse structure may come under review. He cited the difference in purse value between the $750,000 Distaff at Santa Anita and the $350,000 Filly and Mare Turf at Gulfstream Park as too much of a discrepancy. He said those races could be better served with more equal purses.

As for the results of the Millions races, California-breds did not fare as well as some expected. In eight races, the only California-bred to win was Adminniestrator, scoring in the Turf.

"We wish we would have won more races," Burge said. "We did have three seconds and a couple of thirds. We'll get them next year."

Continental Red top Cal-bred

Continental Red, winner of two major stakes in 2002, was named the California-bred Horse of the Year during a ceremony on Jan. 25.

The other divisional awards were announced earlier in January. At that time, Continental Red was named outstanding turf horse.

Continental Red, owned and bred by Wes and Sharon Fitzpatrick, earned his horse of the year title based on his record of two wins in 10 starts and earnings of $540,000. The victories came in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap on turf and the inaugural Great State Challenge Classic at Sam Houston Race Park.

Continental Red also finished second in four stakes - the San Marcos, San Luis Obispo and Sunset handicaps on turf, and the California Cup Classic on dirt. All the losses came by either a nose, head, or neck.

Other California-breds that had outstanding years in 2002 included Grey Memo, winner of the Godolphin Mile and San Diego Handicap; Disturbingthepeace, winner of three sprint stakes; Sky Jack, winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup; and Super High, a four-time stakes winner.

Continental Red was the first California-bred Horse of the Year for the Fitzpatricks, but the second for trainer Ian Jory, who trained Best Pal in 1990.

"I thought he deserved it, but I didn't know if he'd gotten it," Jory said. "Sky Jack did a lot but our horse ran all year and was consistent."

Continental Red has made one start this year, finishing eighth in the Sunshine Millions Classic. He has returned to Jory's stable at Hollywood Park.

"He's back and he's licking his wounds," Jory said. "He just didn't like the track. He

didn't gallop well over it. He's had dirt in his face before but not like that - the wet, heavy sand."

The 7-year-old Continental Red was under consideration for the Santa Anita Handicap on March 1, but may be rerouted to turf, Jory said.

"The Big Cap was a plan before the Sunshine Millions but I don't know about it now," Jory said. "He's got so many options."