11/27/2002 1:00AM

Newsbreak a perfect lead for Motion's Florida season


MIAMI - Trainer Graham Motion, who had a big winter at Gulfstream Park earlier this year, is back in town for another season and will waste little time getting into action. He sends out Newsbreak as one of the favorites in Saturday's $100,000 Mecke Stakes. The Mecke will share top billing on Saturday's program with its filly counterpart, the $100,000 Hollywood Wildcat. Both races will be run at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Newsbreak, a son of Red Ransom, has already won a pair of races on the turf. He won his debut at Colonial Downs in mid-July before returning two months later to easily defeat allowance competition at Belmont. Newsbreak suffered his first and only setback in his most recent start when finishing sixth as the 3-5 favorite in Arlington Park's Manila Stakes.

"He raced very greenly in Chicago," said David Rock, Motion's assistant. Rock came to town with Newsbreak and the first wave of what will eventually be an 18-horse stable Motion plans to have at Gulfstream this winter.

"He got stuck on the rail the whole trip and was just looking at horses the entire race. In his first two starts he raced on the outside. He'd run greenly in his first two starts as well. We've been trying to get blinkers on him, but couldn't because he kept winning. But he'll race in blinkers at Calder on Saturday."

Among the other horses Motion shipped early from Maryland is Dr. Brendler, a lightly raced but promising turf specialist who won a pair of allowance races at Gulfstream this past winter. He's expected to start here a week from Saturday in the Grade 3 Tropical Turf Handicap.

Rock said Motion will also have stakes-winning fillies New Economy and Alternate on hand for the winter. He's a Knockout, winner of Gulfstream's Artax Handicap earlier this year, is currently being freshened at Pin Oak Farm in Ocala and is expected back. Equality, runner-up in Gulfstream's inaugural Aventura Stakes, is also likely to return here. Equality suffered a condylar fracture after winning Delaware Park's Gleaming Stakes in June.

Newsbreak is one of 13 juvenile colts and geldings entered for the Mecke. Other top contenders include Super Frolic, Magic Mecke, Poppy's Image, Supervisor, Aventura Place, and Kick In.

A full field of 12 and four also-eligibles passed the entry box for the Hollywood Wildcat led by Midwest invader U K Trick and a local contingent headed by Crimson and Roses, Silvery Pet, Sweettrickydancer, Miss Tassy, and Askforaraise.

Baffert big among early birds

Early-bird nominations have been released for the 2003 Florida Derby with 117 juveniles making the list. The number is nearly double the 64 early-bird nominees for last year's edition of the Grade 1, $1 million Derby, which serves as the cornerstone of the Gulfstream Park season.

This year's early-bird nominations include trainer Bob Baffert's trio of Vindication, Kafwain, and Bull Market, the first-, second-, and fourth-place finishers, respectively, in last month's Breeders' Cup Juvenile. John Ward's undefeated Sky Mesa, who was forced to scratch because of injury less than 48 hours before the Juvenile, and Bobby Frankel's Empire Maker are among the other big names on the list.

Trainer Ken McPeek, who won the 2002 Florida Derby with Harlan's Holiday, nominated seven of his 2-year-olds in hopes of defending that title.

In addition to Sky Mesa, Ward has four others nominated for the important Kentucky Derby prep. All five horses are owned by John Oxley. Ward won the 2001 Florida Derby with the Oxley-owned Monarchos.

Supplementary nominees can be made to the Florida Derby at a cost of $25,000 at the time of entry on March 12. In addition, horses finishing first, second, or third in the Spectacular Bid, Holy Bull, Hutcheson, and Fountain of Youth Stakes become automatic nominees to the Florida Derby.

The 2003 Florida Derby will be run on March 15.