08/28/2009 11:00PM

Changes coming to Sunshine Millions

Benoit & Associates
The heavily favored Black Mamba (right) wins the CTT and TOC Handicap on Friday.

DEL MAR, Calif. - The eight-race Sunshine Millions program for California-breds and Florida-breds run each January at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita will undergo significant changes, including lower purses, in 2010, Santa Anita president Ron Charles said on Friday. Charles said it is unclear how much purse money will be offered for 2010, or what other changes might be made to the series.

From 2003 through this year, the program offered $3.6 million in purses - a $1 million race for older horses, three $500,000 races, two $300,000 races and two $250,000 races.

Charles said that organizers with Santa Anita and Gulfstream owner Magna Entertainment, which is currently undergoing bankruptcy proceedings, want to sustain the event.

"Everyone acknowledges that Sunshine Millions has been a terrific day," Charles said. "It's been one of the top four [attendance] days of the year. We're just going to be looking at the economics of the day. We're going to have to take a look at the purses and get back to the owners and breeders on some kind of restructuring of purses.

"We'd like to keep it going and try to cut it back."

The Sunshine Millions is funded by Magna and owners and breeders in both states. California tracks have dropped stakes purses in the last year because of declining handle.

Charles said that an announcement on changes to the Sunshine Millions is likely to come in September.

Black Mamba takes care of business

Black Mamba did as expected on Friday, winning the $89,020 CTT and TOC Handicap at Del Mar, but the performance did little to enhance her status in the older female turf division.

Black Mamba ($3.60) won by three-quarters of a length over Lemon Chiffon, the leader in early stretch. The victory was Black Mamba's first start since a last-place finish in the Grade 1 Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park earlier this month, and kept her on schedule for the $300,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting on Oct. 10, trainer John Sadler said.

"We have plenty of time to point for Oak Tree," Sadler said.

Black Mamba, the 124-pound topweight, ran 1 3/8 miles on turf in 2:14.38, and spotted her rivals from six to eight pounds.

Ridden by Mike Smith, Black Mamba was closer to the pace than normal, stalking Gloria Goodbody through modest fractions of 25.21 and 49.73 seconds. Lemon Chiffon rallied three wide off the final turn to take the lead, but could not hold off a sustained effort from Black Mamba.

"She gave those mares a lot of weight," Sadler said. "They were gunning for her."

Lemon Chiffon held second, a half-length in front of Rosa Grace in the field of six fillies and mares.

Owned by Doubledown Stable, Black Mamba, 6, has won 6 of 28 starts and $869,763.

She won the Grade 2 Beverly Hills Handicap for the second consecutive year at Hollywood Park in June.

Bejarano back aboard Meteore

Meteore, the winner of the Grade 2 La Jolla Handicap here on Aug. 15, will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano in the $350,000 Del Mar Derby on Sunday, trainer Richard Mandella said on Saturday.

Bejarano rode Meteore to wins in a maiden race and an allowance race in the spring, but missed the colt's last two races after suffering facial injuries in a spill on July 22. He returned to riding on Friday.

Meteore was fifth as the 9-5 favorite in the Oceanside Stakes July 22, and won the La Jolla under jockey Alex Solis.

The Grade 2 Del Mar Derby, run over 1 1/8 miles on turf, will also include the four-time stakes winner Battle of Hastings and Afleet Eagle, the winner of the Oceanside.