01/16/2003 1:00AM

Eight stakes draw 142 pre-entries


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - If the initial response from the horsemen is any indication, Magna Entertainment Corp.'s inaugural Sunshine Millions on Jan. 25 should be a success.

Pre-entries for the eight Sunshine Millions races, all of which are restricted to Florida- and California-breds, closed Wednesday with 142 horses named, including 23 for the $1 million Sunshine Classic. The 1 1/8-mile Classic is the richest race of the day and the main event on the Gulfstream Park program that also includes the $350,000 Filly and Mare Turf, $250,000 Filly and Mare Sprint, and $250,000 Dash.

The $750,000 Distaff, which also drew 23 pre-entrants, tops the Santa Anita portion of the Sunshine Millions card that includes the $500,000 Turf, $250,000 Sprint, and $250,000 Oaks.

Post positions for all eight races will be drawn at their respective host tracks on Monday. Gulfstream will draw their four races at 11:00 a.m. EST, and Santa Anita will follow at 1:00 p.m. EST.

"I think we've gotten a good cross section of horses from both California and Florida," said Gulfstream Park racing secretary Dave Bailey, who, along with Santa Anita stakes coordinator Rick Hammerle, was instrumental in raising awareness among horsemen for the new series. "And if all goes according to plan, we should have a good day of racing and a great kickoff to this sustainable series between California-breds and Florida-breds."

Each Sunshine Millions race is restricted to six starters from each state. Horses bred in the host state can fill out any available spots should a particular race not fill.

Both the Classic and 1 1/16-mile Distaff are likely to draw full fields.

The Florida contingent for the Classic is expected to include The Judge Sez Who and Best of the Rest, the one-two finishers in Calder's Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper Handicap in 2002; Booklet, winner of the Grade 1 Fountain of Youth and Grade 3 Holy Bull stakes at Gulfstream last winter; and Mayakovsky and Saint Marden, both graded stakes winners. Sir Bear, a three-time Grade 1 winner, and Western Pride, a multiple stakes winner, have also been pre-entered.

Western Pride was also cross-entered in the Sunshine Turf, although his status for both races was unknown on Thursday, according to Bailey.

Team California for the Classic will include Grade 2 winners Grey Memo and Continental Red, along with Long Gone Con, Lennyfromalibu, Slippery When Bet, and possibly White Cloud.

Svea Dahl, Smoke'n Frolic, Coolbythepool, Redoubled Miss, Tonight's the Wager, and Sara's Success appear the most likely candidates to represent Florida in the Distaff. Awaiting their arrival will be Team California's Castling, Cee's Elegance, Nicole's Pursuit, Shalini, Theresa's Year, and Bob's Lady.

Pre-entries for the two 3-year-old races, the Oaks and Dash, were somewhat disappointing.

Only four Florida-breds, including Atlantic Ocean, Ivanavinalot, and Elegant Designer, were pre-entered for the Oaks, while only three California-breds, Crackup, Excessivepleasure, and Judge Swiss, were pre-entered for the Dash. Crackup, however, was entered for Saturday's Grade 2 Santa Catalina at Santa Anita.

"We expected to come up light in the 3-year-old races simply because it's tough to ask newly turned 3-year-olds to ship coast to coast at this time of year," Bailey said. "especially when there are so many other opportunities for those horses closer to home."