11/11/2011 5:46PM

Gulfstream Park: Sunshine Millions restructured

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The Sunshine Millions, which in its nine previous runnings have matched Florida-breds vs. California-breds on race cards held simultaneously at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita, has been revamped into separate statebred programs for 2012.

On Friday, Gulfstream announced it will present the inaugural Florida Sunshine Millions Day on Jan. 28. The six races will be restricted to Florida-breds only with purses totaling $1.3  million. Santa Anita officials said they plan to card a similarly-themed program for California-breds on the same afternoon. Both tracks are owned by the Stronach Group.

The revamped Florida Sunshine Millions Day will be topped by the Classic, which will be decided for a purse of $400,000. The remaining five stakes on the card are the $300,000 Distaff at 1 1/8 miles; the $150,000 Turf at 1 1/8 miles; the $150,000 Filly and Mare Turf at 1 1/8 miles; the $150,000 Sprint at six furlongs, and the $150,000 Filly and Mare Sprint at six furlongs.

“We’re excited about this new version of the Sunshine Millions,” said Gulfstream Park president Tim Ritvo. “It will be the same six races at the same six distances as a year ago with the purses adjusted slightly due to the fact there will be no participation from California.”

Sunshine Millions, the brainchild of Frank Stronach, began in 2003 and consisted of eight stakes matching Florida-breds against California-breds with Gulfstream and Santa Anita Park each hosting four races. The cornerstone of the event was the 1 1/4-mile Sunshine Millions Classic, which offered a purse of $1 million for its first seven renewals before being reduced to $500,000 in 2010.

Best of the Rest, a Florida-bred, won the inaugural Classic held at Gulfstream in 2003. Other notable winners of the race include Lava Man, a California-bred, in 2006 and Go Between, a Florida-bred, in 2008. California-bred Bold Chieftain won the event last winter at Santa Anita.

Rick Hammerle, racing secretary and vice president of racing at Santa Anita, said details of the California version of the Sunshine Millions have not yet been finalized.

“Like Gulfstream, we also had the Sunshine Millions on our stakes schedule for 2012 but during recent purse negotiations the Thoroughbred Owners of California informed us they did not wish to participate this year,” said Hammerle.