01/27/2005 12:00AM

Continental Red seeking some green

Email
Benoit & Associates
Sunshine Millions Turf contender Continental Red hasn't won since taking the Quicken Tree Stakes at Hollywood Park in June 2003 (above).

Continental Red makes his final start for trainer Ian Jory in Saturday's $500,000 at Santa Anita.

In March, Jory is relocating to Saudi Arabia to begin training privately for Sultan al Kabeer. Continental Red's new trainer will be Adam Kitchingman.

A victory as a going-away present is not out of the realm of possibility, Jory said from Santa Anita.

"I know it's a tougher race than they've had in the last few years, but he couldn't be doing any better," Jory said.

Jory will admit there are factors working against Continental Red, who is making his 66th start. He is a 9-year-old, winless in 14 starts, and may be better suited to a race longer than the distance of the Turf's 1 1/8 miles.

Still, barring a downpour that would render the turf course soft, Wes Fitzpatrick, who owns Continental Red with his wife, Sharon, is ready to take a chance.

"This is not his best distance but we think he fits well," Fitzpatrick said.

Continental Red has perfect attendance in the , which is being run for the third year. In 2003, he was eighth in the Classic at Gulfstream Park. Last year, he finished sixth in the Classic at Santa Anita.

"Twice we chose the Classic, and probably incorrectly," Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick is concerned about Continental Red's competitiveness. He said that if the gelding does not show interest in racing in coming starts, retirement is possible.

"He's still enthusiastic but I don't want to do anything to degrade what I've done with him," Fitzpatrick said. "If it's too tough, we'll bring him home. He enjoys the farm life."

In his most recent start, Continental Red finished third in the Grade 3 San Gabriel Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on dirt on Jan. 1.

A winner of $1,198,358, Continental Red has a winless streak that dates back to the Quicken Tree Stakes at Hollywood Park in June 2003.

Last year, he was winless in eight starts, earned $132,800, and placed in three stakes, including a second in the Jim Murray Memorial Handicap at Hollywood Park.

More than likely, Continental Red will have a similar campaign this year as he had in 2004, with races such as the San Luis Obispo and San Luis Rey handicaps over 1 1/2 miles as part of his agenda.

As quickly as he spoke of a possible retirement for Continental Red, Fitzpatrick spoke of looking forward to testing the horse in the turf marathons.

"When a horse wins more than $100,000 in a year's time, there is no reason to put him away," Fitzpatrick said.

Durkin for Stauffer

Vic Stauffer is the voice of Gulfstream Park. But for four races on Saturday, Stauffer will relinquish his mike to former track announcer Tom Durkin, who will call the four Sunshine Millions races at Gulfstream live for NBC-TV.

The two-hour NBC broadcast of the entire Sunshine Millions card will air from 4-6 p.m. on Saturday. Seven of the eight races from Gulfstream and Santa Anita Park will be shown live, with the Oaks from Santa Anita on tape delay.

Durkin held the position of track announcer at Gulfstream from 1995-1999 before resigning to give himself some free time during the winter. Durkin remains the regular track announcer for the New York Racing Association tracks from the beginning of the spring season at Aqueduct through the early winter. He is also the voice of the Breeders' Cup, on whose format the Sunshine Millions is based.

Durkin will be joined on Saturday's telecast at Gulfstream Park by Donna Brothers and Mike Battaglia.

Hills pro-Millions in a big way

Trainer Tim Hills, who will send out defending champion Mooji Moo in the Filly and Mare Sprint and Vous in the Filly and Mare Turf, is one of the Sunshine Millions's staunchest supporters. Hills, based at Gulfstream, had also hoped to have a third starter on Sunshine Millions Day, Stormy Roman, who ran in each of the first two Millions Turf events, but could not make it in off the also-eligible list this season.

"I think these races provide a terrific opportunity to run these horses for some very good money," said Hills. "The program is set up well and it's also been fun to do. For all the criticism you hear about Frank Stronach, he does spend his money and has come up with some pretty good ideas."

* Weather at both Gulfstream and Santa Anita on Saturday might not be ideal. The forecast as of Thursday for Santa Anita called for rain on Friday and a 30 percent of chance of showers on Saturday. Saturday's high temperature was expected to be 65. At Gulfstream, there was a 60 percent chance of rain Saturday and a high of 74.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch