09/26/2002 11:00PM

California-breds basking in Millions

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ARCADIA, Calif. - The launch of the Sunshine Millions stakes day for California-breds and Florida-breds in January will give California-breds a third day of stakes worth at least $1 million in 2003.

Scheduled for Jan. 25, the Sunshine Millions program will feature eight stakes worth $3.6 million, with four races run at Gulfstream Park and four at Santa Anita. The races will be restricted to horses bred in those two states.

California-breds already compete for $1.325 million on California Cup Day during Oak Tree at Santa Anita each November, and $1.31 million on California Gold Rush Day at Hollywood Park in late April. Stakes on those days are restricted to California-breds. This year, the California Cup is on Nov. 2. Some details of the Sunshine Millions program have yet to be finalized. Purses for the unnamed races will range from $250,000 to $1 million, with funding coming from the respective state breeding organizations, the purse accounts from both tracks, and Magna Entertainment, the parent company of both tracks.

According to Doug Burge, the executive vice-president of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association, a determination of which races will be held at which track will be made during a meeting next week. He said the track that hosts the richest race - a $1 million race for males 3-year-olds and up - will not host the $750,000 race for fillies and mares over 1 1/16 miles and the $500,000 race for males 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on turf. The program also includes a $350,000 race for fillies and mares over 1 1/8 miles on turf, two $250,000 sprints for each sex over six furlongs, and $250,000 races for 3-year-olds of each sex over seven furlongs.

"For us, the date fits our overall California-bred calender very well," Burge said. "The purses are extremely lucrative."

To help fund the Sunshine Millions, the CTBA needed legislative approval. Earlier this year, legislation was signed by California Governor Gray Davis giving the CTBA more discretion on how monies dedicated for statebreds were spent.

In addition, the statebred schedule for the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting will undergo several changes, according to Burge. He said two sprint stakes that have not drawn large fields in recent years-the Zany Tactics Stakes for 3-year-olds and the Valiant Pete Handicap for older horses-will be discontinued and that some stakes will offer less purse money.

Officer likely to be retired

Officer, the California-bred champion 2-year-old male of 2001 who has not raced since April, is likely to be retired and sent to stud in coming months, according to Richard Mulhall, the racing manager for The Thoroughbred Corp. Mulhall said breeding farms in Kentucky and Japan have expressed an interest in Officer, who has been out of training since April because of a tendon injury.

Because Officer is not in serious training, he would not return to racing until the late fall or winter. Mulhall said the timing could work against Officer's value at stud if he did not have 4-year-old campaign in 2003. "It's too risky to bring him back," Mulhall said. "If something goes wrong in March, then I lose a whole year with him. I don't want to do that. It would ruin him. I think it's more likely that he'll stand at stud next year."

A winner of 6 of 9 starts and $804,090, Officer was considered one of the top 2-year-olds of 2001. He won four stakes, including the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes, but was beaten in his final three starts, the first of which was the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Belmont Park where he finished fifth.

By Bertrando, Officer made one start this year, winning the Zany Tactics Stakes for California-breds at Santa Anita in April. He was being prepared for a start in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 20 when the injury was detected.