01/22/2003 12:00AM

O'Connell predicting 'a great race'

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Kathleen O'Connell sounded a little stressed. Not about the prospects of running her 3-year-old filly Ivanavinalot at Santa Anita on Saturday in the Sunshine Million Oaks. But at the thought of making the six-hour plane ride from Fort Lauderdale to California on Wednesday afternoon.

O'Connell sounded supremely confident that Ivanavinalot would give a good account of herself in the seven-furlong Oaks when she was asked about the race not long before she boarded her flight for the West Coast.

"I expect a great race from her on Saturday," O'Connell said. "She's had two super works going in and she really didn't miss much training time, even though we did send her to the farm for 30 days at the end of last year."

Ivanavinalot has won 5 of 6 starts, including Calder's My Dear Girl Stakes by 13 3/4 lengths in her 2002 finale. Her only setback came in the six-furlong Desert Vixen Stakes, when she lost all chance after breaking slowly and getting knocked about after the break.

Ivanavinalot was scheduled to get her first class check and make her first start outside her home base at Calder in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. But O'Connell discovered an elevated white cell count in a routine blood test before putting her filly on the plane for Chicago and opted not to make the trip.

"This will be a tough race with fillies like Atlantic Ocean and Elegant Designer in the field, but it's still only Florida- and California-breds and probably an easier race than the Davona Dale and Bonnie Miss will be here later in the meet," said O'Connell.

"The only alternative to get the year started was at Tampa, and who knows how she would have handled that racetrack. By going to Santa Anita it gives her an opportunity to run over a better track and a chance to get a real gauge where we might stand with her at this stage of the year."

Coolbythepool will stay home

One Florida representative who did not board the plane that took the local contingent west on Tuesday was Coolbythepool. Trainer Marty Wolfson opted to withdraw Coolbythepool, a 6-year-old mare, from consideration for the Sunshine Distaff Handicap.

"After weighing all the options I decided not to send her out," Wolfson said Wednesday. "That track is extremely hard and so speed-conducive, and she just doesn't perform at her best over that type of surface. Besides, I'd probably lose two months with her once she returns if she ran over that track because her feet are so bad."

The defection of Coolbythepool allows also-eligible Smart Lacy into the Distaff field, leaving only Secret of Mecca excluded.

Wolfson will still have at least one and possibly two representatives on the Sunshine Millions card with Stay Forever and Laurica both entered in the Filly and Mare Turf. Laurica is on the also-eligible list.

Stay Forever had her four-race win streak halted when she finished third against colts and geldings in Calder's Bonnie Heath Turf Handicap.

"I think she should have beaten Miesque's Approval in her last start, and she won't be racing against boys on Saturday," said Wolfson, who said he was "really glad I got a great rider" for the race, having named Jose Santos to ride Stay Forever.

"It looks like there is a ton of speed in the field, so it should set up well for her."

Among Stay Forever's competition in the Filly and Mare Turf is Lush Soldier, who is owned and bred by John Franks, whose farm also happens to be sponsoring the race.

"I'm planning to hand the trophy to myself," Franks said.

Ward states the case

Trainer John T. Ward Jr. is as synonymous with Kentucky racing as anyone in the game, having grown up just outside the Keeneland stable gate, on property where he still lives.

Yet Ward is quick to point out that two of the most accomplished horses he has ever trained, Beautiful Pleasure and Booklet, are Florida-breds.

"I might've won more Grade 1 races with Florida-breds than anything, but don't let the people back home in on that," joked Ward. "They might kill me."

Ward, who will run Booklet in the Classic, said that despite the Sunshine Millions being a restricted event, he is very much in favor of the overall concept. He said the "branding" of the Magna Entertainment Corp. tracks and of the California and Florida breeding programs is a "positive and progressive" development, as is the "intramural aspect" of the two states competing against each other.

"Any novel concept like this can only help the sport," he said.

Top dollar for TV time

As often happens in sports, the availability of television network programming is dictating the order of how the Sunshine Millions races will be run. The Millions is front-loaded with the richest events, the $750,000 Turf and $1 million Classic, scheduled as the second and third races of the series.

Under more typical circumstances, richer races would be run later on the card, but because Magna secured the 3-4 p.m. Eastern time slot from NBC-TV, those races will be run earlier.

The $250,000 Dash will be run first at Gulfstream, followed by the Turf from Santa Anita and Classic from Gulfstream. The remaining five races will follow.

Pair of pick fours

Gulfstream announced Wednesday that pick four wagering will be offered on the four Sunshine Millions races to be run there Saturday. Those races are carded as the sixth through ninth races.

In order, the pick four races are the Filly-Mare Sprint, the Classic, the Dash, and the Filly-Mare Turf.

Santa Anita also will be conducting a pick four on their Sunshine Millions races.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Kathleen O'Connell sounded a little stressed. Not about the prospects of running her 3-year-old filly Ivanavinalot at Santa Anita on Saturday in the Sunshine Million Oaks. But at the thought of making the six-hour plane ride from Fort Lauderdale to California on Wednesday afternoon.

O'Connell sounded supremely confident that Ivanavinalot would give a good account of herself in the seven-furlong Oaks when she was asked about the race not long before she boarded her flight for the West Coast.

"I expect a great race from her on Saturday," O'Connell said. "She's had two super works going in and she really didn't miss much training time, even though we did send her to the farm for 30 days at the end of last year."

Ivanavinalot has won 5 of 6 starts, including Calder's My Dear Girl Stakes by 13 3/4 lengths in her 2002 finale. Her only setback came in the six-furlong Desert Vixen Stakes, when she lost all chance after breaking slowly and getting knocked about after the break.

Ivanavinalot was scheduled to get her first class check and make her first start outside her home base at Calder in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. But O'Connell discovered an elevated white cell count in a routine blood test before putting her filly on the plane for Chicago and opted not to make the trip.

"This will be a tough race with fillies like Atlantic Ocean and Elegant Designer in the field, but it's still only Florida- and California-breds and probably an easier race than the Davona Dale and Bonnie Miss will be here later in the meet," said O'Connell.

"The only alternative to get the year started was at Tampa, and who knows how she would have handled that racetrack. By going to Santa Anita it gives her an opportunity to run over a better track and a chance to get a real gauge where we might stand with her at this stage of the year."

Coolbythepool will stay home

One Florida representative who did not board the plane that took the local contingent west on Tuesday was Coolbythepool. Trainer Marty Wolfson opted to withdraw Coolbythepool, a 6-year-old mare, from consideration for the Sunshine Distaff Handicap.

"After weighing all the options I decided not to send her out," Wolfson said Wednesday. "That track is extremely hard and so speed-conducive, and she just doesn't perform at her best over that type of surface. Besides, I'd probably lose two months with her once she returns if she ran over that track because her feet are so bad."

The defection of Coolbythepool allows also-eligible Smart Lacy into the Distaff field, leaving only Secret of Mecca excluded.

Wolfson will still have at least one and possibly two representatives on the Sunshine Millions card with Stay Forever and Laurica both entered in the Filly and Mare Turf. Laurica is on the also-eligible list.

Stay Forever had her four-race win streak halted when she finished third against colts and geldings in Calder's Bonnie Heath Turf Handicap.

"I think she should have beaten Miesque's Approval in her last start, and she won't be racing against boys on Saturday," said Wolfson, who said he was "really glad I got a great rider" for the race, having named Jose Santos to ride Stay Forever.

"It looks like there is a ton of speed in the field, so it should set up well for her."

Among Stay Forever's competition in the Filly and Mare Turf is Lush Soldier, who is owned and bred by John Franks, whose farm also happens to be sponsoring the race.

"I'm planning to hand the trophy to myself," Franks said.

Ward states the case

Trainer John T. Ward Jr. is as synonymous with Kentucky racing as anyone in the game, having grown up just outside the Keeneland stable gate, on property where he still lives.

Yet Ward is quick to point out that two of the most accomplished horses he has ever trained, Beautiful Pleasure and Booklet, are Florida-breds.

"I might've won more Grade 1 races with Florida-breds than anything, but don't let the people back home in on that," joked Ward. "They might kill me."

Ward, who will run Booklet in the Classic, said that despite the Sunshine Millions being a restricted event, he is very much in favor of the overall concept. He said the "branding" of the Magna Entertainment Corp. tracks and of the California and Florida breeding programs is a "positive and progressive" development, as is the "intramural aspect" of the two states competing against each other.

"Any novel concept like this can only help the sport," he said.

Top dollar for TV time

As often happens in sports, the availability of television network programming is dictating the order of how the Sunshine Millions races will be run. The Millions is front-loaded with the richest events, the $750,000 Turf and $1 million Classic, scheduled as the second and third races of the series.

Under more typical circumstances, richer races would be run later on the card, but because Magna secured the 3-4 p.m. Eastern time slot from NBC-TV, those races will be run earlier.

The $250,000 Dash will be run first at Gulfstream, followed by the Turf from Santa Anita and Classic from Gulfstream. The remaining five races will follow.

Pair of pick fours

Gulfstream announced Wednesday that pick four wagering will be offered on the four Sunshine Millions races to be run there Saturday. Those races are carded as the sixth through ninth races.

In order, the pick four races are the Filly-Mare Sprint, the Classic, the Dash, and the Filly-Mare Turf.

Santa Anita also will be conducting a pick four on their Sunshine Millions races.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee