04/12/2002 12:00AM

Hot Market on the rise


ARCADIA, Calif. - A new shooter in the California-bred handicap division may have been unveiled on the Santa Anita Derby undercard last Saturday.

Hot Market, whose career was under a cloud at this time last year because of a sesamoid injury, won a $67,260 allowance race in by far the best performance of his nine-race career.

Owned by John Harris and Per Antonsen, Hot Market won by a length and ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.39. The victory suggests Hot Market is on course for a stakes for older male Cal-breds.

Among the top Cal-bred handicap horses is Irisheyesareflying, who won the California Cup Classic last November. The latest star in the division is Grey Memo, who won the $1 million Godolphin Mile last month, his first victory since last June.

Hot Market has won three races, all at Santa Anita. A gelding by Cee's Tizzy, Hot Market was being pointed to a Triple Crown prep last year when the sesamoid injury was detected.

"We were real high on him last year when he won two in a row," Harris said. "We thought we had a Derby horse."

When Hot Market returned from injury in March, he finished fifth and sixth in two sprints for trainer Craig Lewis.

"I was pleased he was able to overcome a serious injury," Lewis said. "He needed a couple of races to get the kinks out."

Lewis feels that Hot Market's biggest asset is his ability to sustain his speed through the second and third quarters of a race. At that point, he can put away the other early pacesetters and yet offer a strong challenge to stalkers and closers.

"He has lots of speed and he can carry it," Lewis said. "I don't know what his distance limitations are, if any, but he's more comfortable around two turns. Hopefully, he can keep going forward."

More flexibility with stakes funds

Legislation that would allow the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association to reallocate stakes funds for use in races that are not restricted to California-breds has passed a Senate committee in Sacramento.

Senate Bill 1465 was approved by the Senate Governmental Organization Committee last Tuesday without opposition. The bill, which is expected to be heard by the full Senate this month, would allow the CTBA to use existing funds for new race programs such as the Great State Challenge and Sunshine Millions. Currently, legislation states the funds must be used on races restricted to California-breds. The new law would allow the money to be spent on races that feature California-breds.

"The purpose is to allow us more discretion for existing funds we administer," said Doug Burge, the executive director of the CTBA.

The Great State Challenge, scheduled for December at Sam Houston Race Park in Texas, will bring together representatives of eight breeding states for six races.

Each race will be worth $250,000, with $150,000 coming from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, $50,000 from the Breeders' Cup for eligible runners, and $50,000 from the state breeding organizations.

The Sunshine Millions is tentatively planned for next January and would match Florida-breds and California-breds in races at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita. The program is only in the planning stages and has not been finalized.

Officials with Magna Entertainment, which owns both tracks, have discussed with the CTBA the possibility of races worth $500,000, though funding purses at that level may be difficult.

If money is shifted from California-bred stakes, some existing races at the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting may be canceled or have their purses reduced, Burge said.

One potential avenue for revenue for the Sunshine Millions that was discussed over the winter was a slight raise in the parimutuel takeout, but the idea has been shelved.