01/17/2004 1:00AM

Sprint won't be easy for Valid Video


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Dennis Manning pointed Valid Video for the inaugural Sunshine Millions Dash at Gulfstream Park last winter for several months and was rewarded with a game victory over the highly regarded California invader Excessivepleasure.

One year later, Manning has set his sights firmly on the Sunshine Millions Sprint and is confident he will get a similar effort from Valid Video here this Saturday.

"I'm not sure he can beat horses like Shake You Down or Midas Eyes, but I'll guarantee my horse will step up to the race real big," said Manning.

Valid Video, now 4, has won 6 of 10 starts, including the Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga in August. The victory earned Valid Video a chance to run in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, but after he finished 13th and last, Manning discovered Valid Video had suffered a pulled left stifle in the race.

"I've been pointing him for the race next Saturday since he started back in training after recovering from his injury," Manning said. "And he's been doing great right along . . . as good as he was coming into the Sunshine Millions Dash last year."

Manning is a big advocate of the Sunshine Millions concept, as is Valid Video's owner, Mac Fehsenfeld.

"Mac had a mare in foal to Grand Slam in Kentucky but shipped her here [Saturday] to drop the foal in Florida specifically so it will be eligible for the Sunshine Millions series," Manning explained.

Manning also pre-entered another Fehsenfeld horse, Ballonenostrikes, for the Sunshine Millions Turf but is not sure if he will get into the race.

"We're ranked 13th among the Florida-breds on the eligibility list, and I'm not sure how many of the California horses are coming, so at the moment it appears he won't get to run," said Manning.

Ballonenostrikes completed a big weekend for Manning and Fehsenfeld last summer when he captured Monmouth Park's Choice Stakes the day after Valid Video's victory in the King's Bishop.

Barbara O'Brien sharp

Barbara O'Brien, one of only four Florida-breds pre-entered for the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint, continues to train extremely well for the race. Saturday, Barbara O'Brien breezed a half-mile in 46.20 seconds at Gulfstream with exercise rider Finley Bishop aboard.

Madame Pietra, the winner of last year's Filly and Mare Sprint, and the speedy California-bred Bear Fan will be among Barbara O'Brien's chief competitors in the six-furlong race.

Coach Jimi Lee breezes

Coach Jimi Lee, a 4-year-old gelding who smashed the track record at Hawthorne when he ran six furlongs in an eye-popping 1:07.27 in a Dec. 12 allowance, breezed a half-mile in 48.40 seconds Saturday at Gulfstream in preparation for the $100,000 Deputy Minister Handicap on Feb. 7.

Coach Jimi Lee had a brief freshening after his victory, said trainer Jimmy DiVito, who is stabled at Gulfstream. "I like how he's doing," said DiVito.

Coach Jimi Lee, an earner of slightly more than $300,000 from 14 career starts, will face a major test in the 6 1/2-furlong Deputy Minister: Cajun Beat, winner of the Breeders' Cup Sprint in October and the Jan. 3 Mr. Prospector Handicap in his only subsequent start, will be using the Deputy Minister as a prep for the $1 million Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 27.

California jockeys expected

At least three California riders are expected to be here for the Sunshine Millions: Alex Solis, Tyler Baze, and Martin Pedroza. Jerry Bailey and Eddie Castro will move from Florida to California for the day.

Entries for the Sunshine Millions will be drawn Monday - four races at Gulfstream and, later in the day, four at Santa Anita.

Travel plans tentatively call for the California shippers to be flown to Florida on Wednesday, and the Florida shippers to go to California the next day.

* Lost in all the fanfare surrounding the Sunshine Millions program is the Mac Diarmida Handicap, a Grade 3 turf race at 1 3/8 miles next Sunday. The Mac Diarmida drew 24 nominations, including Balto Star, winner of the Grade 2 W.L. McKnight Handicap in his last start, Hard Buck, and Macaw.

* Trainer Nick Zito's three top 3-year-old prospects all worked at Palm Meadows on Saturday. Eurosilver breezed five furlongs in 1:02, Birdstone went the same distance in 1:02.40 while The Cliff's Edge worked a half-mile in 49 seconds.

* Maybe Jack shows few signs of slowing down. Now 11, Maybe Jack notched his 34th career victory when he pulled away to win the first race Saturday at a $4.60 mutuel. Maybe Jack, owned and trained by E.T. Broome, was making his 114th career start in the $8,000 claiming route.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee