01/22/2004 12:00AM

Silent Sighs, a Cal-bred, in an unusual position


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - One of the original premises of the Sunshine Millions focused on a scoring competition between Florida-breds and California-breds. But after just a few races in the 2003 inaugural, it became painfully obvious that Florida-breds held an overwhelming advantage, in numbers as well as performance.

Florida won last year by the lopsided score of 56-16 (based on a 5-3-1 system for firsts, seconds, and thirds), with the only win by a California-bred coming in the Turf, where Adminniestrator prevailed by a nose over Florida-bred Music's Storm.

This year, Florida-bred domination seems likely again, with perhaps one exception: the $250,000 Ocala Stud Oaks, a six-furlong race carded as the first of Gulfstream Park's four Sunshine Millions events (race 7, post 3:45 p.m.). The solid favorite in the Oaks is Silent Sighs, a Benchmark filly who is just a half-length away from being unbeaten in three career starts. Marty and Pam Wygod own and bred Silent Sighs in California.

Silent Sighs, trained by Julio Canani, began her career by winning an Oct. 13 maiden race by six lengths as the odds-on favorite. She made her next start nearly four weeks later, when she led most of the way in the Cal Cup Juvenile Fillies, only to be caught in the final yards by House of Fortune and lose by a half-length. In her latest start, Silent Sighs easily won the filly division of the California Breeders' Championship at 3-5 odds.

David Flores, one of many California riders who will be at Gulfstream for the Sunshine Millions, will be aboard Silent Sighs, who will break from the inside post in a field of six 3-year-old fillies.

The biggest challenger to Silent Sighs may be Wacky Patty, a Florida-bred who ships in from Oaklawn Park after spending the last half of 2003 training at Louisiana Downs and racing at Delta Downs. Cole Norman, a standout trainer in that region, sends Wacky Patty in off a 3 1/2-length triumph in the $40,000 Genesis at Delta three weeks ago. Carlos Gonzalez, who rode for several years on the south Florida circuit, will be in to ride Wacky Patty.

Fringe contenders in the Oaks include the California-bred Remembrances, a Cherokee Run filly who won two straight races before being soundly beaten by Silent Sighs in their last meeting, and Usual Manner, a Florida-bred with two lifetime wins.