01/22/2004 12:00AM

Mott hoping to find a race for Stolen Time

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Bill Mott was looking around late last fall for a potential Kentucky Derby prospect he might purchase for longtime horse owner Jeanne Vance. His search ended when he found Stolen Time, a promising 2-year-old whose resume included a victory over Second of June in Calder's What a Pleasure Stakes and a close third-place finish behind the undefeated Sir Oscar and Wynn Dot Comma in the seven-furlong Jack Price Juvenile Stakes.

Mott was eventually able to buy Stolen Time from trainer Bill White for an undisclosed price. But what should have been a happy story ended almost as soon as it had begun, when Vance died unexpectedly a week after the deal was completed.

"Jeanne had a lot of young horses and was hoping to get something already at the races," said Mott. "This horse had already won a stakes around two turns at 2 and was kind what we were looking for. It's really a shame how things turned out. Jeanne was a great owner and she really loved the horses. Everything remains up in the air right now concerning all the horses she owned. There are still a lot of decisions pending."

Mott gave Stolen Time some time off at his barn at Payson Park. Now Mott is ready to begin searching for a race for his 3-year-old prospect, who remains eligible for a second-level allowance condition.

"He's been training well, and much like Bill [White] told me he would," said Mott. "He's very laid back and kind of likes being around the stable pony."

Mott said he'd like to try to get a race into Stolen Time in time to make the Fountain of Youth on Feb. 14 and then the $1 million Florida Derby, if all should go well.

"It's disappointing; you can't always make too many plans for a 3-year-old around here because you never know if their races are going to fill," said Mott. "But if I can get one into him and he performs well enough we'll try for the two big ones later in the meet."

Gill returns for a day

Michael Gill won a record 88 races at the 2003 Gulfstream meet, but his tenure as leading owner was marked by legal wrangling with track management, skepticism from racing fans, and resentment from fellow owners.

Gill ultimately filed a civil lawsuit against Gulfstream and its president, Scott Savin, in Gill's home state of New Hampshire, and the case tentatively is scheduled to be heard in late spring. In the meantime, Gill has moved his horses elsewhere after saying he would not return to Gulfstream.

Hold that thought: Gill will be represented Saturday at Gulfstream with two runners in the Sunshine Millions. Adminniestrator will defend his 2003 victory in the $500,000 Turf, and Thunder Bullet will run in the $300,000 Sprint.

Savin was nonchalant about Gill sending horses to Gulfstream for the first time since their rift blew open. "He didn't apply for stalls, so that was an issue that never had to be addressed," said Savin. "His horses are back there with the rest of the California horses in Barn 2. We've got no problems."

Perfect timing for 'Millions' on TV

Sports fans who have grown accustomed to watching football on television might start panicking with their television remotes this weekend, clicking away while trying to find anything for a sports fix. It is, after all, the weekend that follows the National Football League conference championships and precedes the Super Bowl.

In that regard, the purchase of two hours of network television time (NBC, 4-6 p.m. Eastern) for a live airing of the Sunshine Millions seems a pretty smart move - or at least one horse owner thinks so.

"The timing of the races, coming the weekend before the Super Bowl when not much else is going on in the sports world, shows very good planning," said Vernon Heath, who is running Redoubled Miss in the $500,000 Distaff.

Music's Storm misses the cut

Trainer Todd Pletcher was hoping to have three horses in Saturday's Sunshine Millions races at Gulfstream. Unfortunately for him, Music's Storm wound up on the outside looking in when entries were drawn for the Sunshine Millions Turf, ending up as the first horse on the also-eligible list by way of the somewhat complicated system to determine eligibility for the series.

"We've been pointing for this race for quite a while, but that's the way the thing was set up and there's nothing we can do about it," said Pletcher.

Music's Storm finished second, beaten a nose by Adminniestrator, in the 2003 Sunshine Millions Turf at Santa Anita. And he appeared to be cycling back to similar form, having concluded the campaign with an allowance victory at Keeneland and a second-place finish behind Stormy Roman in Calder's Bonnie Heath Turf Cup.

"We'll just regroup and look for something a little later down the road," said Pletcher.

Pletcher still has defending champion Smok'n Frolic in the Distaff and the improving Pick'em in the Sprint.

"Smok'n Frolic had an off day in her last start," said Pletcher, referring to her fifth-place finish as the odds-on favorite in Calder's Elmer Huebeck Distaff Handicap. "It certainly wasn't her 'A' race but she's training well ever since and I expect a big race from her Saturday. Pick'em is a hard-trying little guy who is always right there but is obviously facing a tough assisgnment going up against Grade 1 horses like Shake You Down and Valid Video. He'll need things to set up right but if one or both of the big horses stub their toes he's got as much right as anyone to win the race."

House Party at home

Even though his star filly House Party has never raced around two turns in her 15-race career, owner Joseph Shields Jr. said the choice between staying home to run in the 1 1/16-mile Distaff or shipping to Santa Anita to run in the six-furlong Filly and Mare Sprint was a relatively easy one.

"I would much prefer to run here in Florida than in California," said Shields. "It would be much easier for me to get there. It's in my own back yard."

House Party, a Grade 1 winner of $634,564, is one of the favorites for the $500,000 Distaff.

* Gulfstream is accepting entries for the third annual "TurfVivor" handicapping contest. Entry fee is $1,000 for the three-day contest that runs Feb. 27-29. For more information, call (954) 457-6977.

* The Saturday concert features the popular 1970's band REO Speedwagon. The band begins playing at 2:30 in the concert pavilion behind the north grandstand.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee