01/26/2004 12:00AM

Secret Request quieted crowd


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Of the four Sunshine Millions races run here Saturday, easily the one with the most dramatic build-up - and ending - was the Ocala Breeders' Sales Distaff.

Outside the paddock and walking ring, as bystanders stood on their toes to get a glimpse of star actor Joe Pesci and his namesake filly, virtually no one was paying attention to the longest shot on the board, Secret Request, a Calder filly trained by David Brownlee. But when the front-runners began backing up and the closers started charging, culminating in a mad scramble in the final furlong, all eyes - disbelieving and otherwise - wound up on the No. 12 horse, Secret Request, who won at 74-1.

"I thought we could hit the board," said Brownlee. "Did I think we would win? Honestly, no. But this filly is all class. The way it set up for her was good. I actually lost sight of her down the stretch, but then someone started hitting me, saying, 'There she is!' When I got my eye on her again, she was coming out of the pack to win."

Meanwhile, there seems to be a legitimate reason that Pesci the filly was so dull while finishing ninth: Trainer Wesley Ward said the filly was struck in the eye by a rock or dirt clod early in the race.

Ward said the eye was infected and covered with a patch and that veterinarians at Palm Meadows were treating it aggressively with antibiotics. "It explains why she ran like she did," said Ward. "You can't run if you can't see."

* Trainer Julio Canani said Ocala Stud Oaks winner Silent Sighs, bred and owned by Marty Wygod, will be pointed to the April 30 Kentucky Oaks, with just one prep race beforehand. "We won't run her again for two and a half months," he said, meaning the Fantasy at Oaklawn or Ashland at Keeneland could be her next race.

* Trainer Scott Lake said he would sit down with owner Robert Cole Jr. later this week to discuss what would be next for Sprint winner Shake You Down, although he all but ruled out running him again here this meet.

"He's most effective when I space his races a month apart and I'd also like to keep him at six furlongs," said Lake. "The two sprint stakes remaining here this winter are at six and a half and seven furlongs."

* Proud Man, winner of the Sunshine Turf, also came back in good order, according to trainer Christophe Clement, and will be given a brief freshening at Payson Park. "The Explosive Bid [which is now named the Mervin Muniz] in late March could be his next start," said Clement. "If the owner wants to give him a little bit more of a break then I'll wait for the Fort Marcy when we get back to New York."

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch