01/22/2008 12:00AM

Three northerners aimed at Classic

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Northern California has three legitimate contenders in Saturday's $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic at Santa Anita, including the defending champion, McCann's Mojave; last year's California Cup Classic winner, Bold Chieftain; and Now Victory, who just beat McCann's Mojave in the Dec. 26 Forty Niner. In addition, two Northern California-based mares, Somethinaboutlaura and Gentle Charmer, will be pitted against Nashoba's Key in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf, also at Santa Anita.

Just as he did last year before sending McCann's Mojave to Florida, where he scored a $69.80 upset in the Classic, trainer Steve Specht gave his star a strong one-mile drill in his final work for the Sunshine Millions. McCann's Mojave went the mile in 1:38.20 on the Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields on Friday, exactly a year to the day of his 1:37.60 work that was a springboard to victory in 2007.

Because McCann's Mojave uses Lasix when he works, Specht said he likes to give the 8-year-old horse a strong mile drill eight to 10 days before racing. That way, the horse isn't receiving two doses of Lasix only a few days apart.

"Why change up something successful?" asked Specht. "He's every bit as good as he was last year, and maybe a little fresher."

Trainer Dean Pederson has everything going his way for Now Victory, who turned in his second straight six-furlong bullet work Sunday, going in 1:12 after having worked in 1:11.80 the previous Sunday. Now Victory, who likes to race on the lead, drew outside the sprinter Bilo in the Classic, which pleased Pederson.

"Bilo's a very fast sprinter," Pederson said before the draw. "If we can draw outside him, we'll sit off him. As long as he's in the clear, our horse can sit off runners."

Bold Chieftain is coming off a sixth-place finish in the Grade 3 Native Diver on Dec. 8 at Hollywood Park.

Somethinaboutlaura staying on turf

Somethinaboutlaura, who won the Campanile on New Year's Day to become a millionaire, is running in the Filly and Mare Turf rather than the Sprint at Santa Anita or the Distaff at 1 1/8 miles on the main track at Gulfstream Park.

Her trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, said he decided to stay in California rather than shipping to Florida to run against Eclipse champion Ginger Punch in the Distaff.

"We thought about the sprint," he said, "but she's already stretched out, and she's never finished off the board on the turf."

Trainer Ed Moger Jr. has been eyeing the Filly and Mare Turf for Gentle Charmer since her $110 upset in the California Cup Distaff last fall. He believes the 6-year-old mare is better suited for the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Filly and Mare Turf than the 6 1/2 furlongs of the Cal Cup Distaff.

"We thought about trying to squeeze another race in, but we've been planning for this since Cal Cup," he said.

Baze mountless on Millions Day

Russell Baze enters this week 12 wins shy of 10,000 career victories after winning 11 races last week.

Baze has more wins than any other North American jockey. The Brazilian rider Jorge Ricardo picked up his 10,000th victory on Jan. 9 in Argentina.

Although Baze is the regular rider of Bold Chieftain and guided Now Victory to the win in the Forty Niner, he will be staying home on Sunshine Millions Day. He cast his lot to ride High Resolve in the Sunshine Millions Oaks at Gulfstream, but the filly contracted a virus and will miss the race. In the meantime Bold Chieftain and Now Victory, who are running in Millions races at Santa Anita, both secured jockeys.

Eight due for California Derby

Sunday's California Derby drew 23 nominations, and at least eight are expected to run.

Bert's Law, Many Rivers, and Cafe Tortoni, who were second, third, and fourth behind undefeated El Gato Malo in the Dec. 15 Gold Rush here, are expected to compete. Capture the Call and Coast Guard, both of whom graduated at a mile, will start in the derby. Moonlit Master, Overland, and Tres Borrachos are also likely to run.

* Thursday's feature is a strong allowance for fillies and mares at one mile. Wild Promises and Holy Nova are the likely favorites. Both had a three-race win streak snapped last out, when they were second and third behind Somethinaboutlaura in the Jan. 1 Campanile Stakes.