09/11/2003 11:00PM

This time, no easy trip for 'Brite'


POMONA, Calif. - Large fields have characterized the first three days of the Los Angeles County Fair race meet, but the starting gate will be half-empty at Fairplex Park on Sunday when only five fillies and mares race 1 1/16 miles in the $50,000 E.B. Johnston Stakes.

Brite Sunny Day rode the crest of a speed bias to a two-other-than allowance win last out, and is likely to start favored under jockey Ryan Fogelsonger. She will not get another easy trip, however, due to the presence of The Candi Queen, a claiming filly with the same running style as Brite Sunny Day. If the front-runners compromise each other, three imports from South America will try to pick up the pieces.

Eclipse De Luna (Chile), Imperatiz Rafaela (Brazil), and Meguial (Argentina) complete the field in a race likely to be dominated by the two front-running California-breds.

Brite Sunny Day was making her 11th career start when trainer Carla Gaines stretched her out Aug. 22 for only the second time. "We were sort of running out of conditions sprinting; she wasn't able to keep up when we got into [stronger] conditions," Gaines said.

She entered the 4-year-old Brite Sunny Day in the mile race, and crossed her fingers that the filly would stay. "It's kind of a question mark until you do it," Gaines said.

Brite Sunny Day shot to the lead, and went the opening half-mile in 45.54 seconds. The fast pace typically spells doom over a distance of ground, but the Del Mar racing surface was unpredictable this meet, and Brite Sunny Day caught her preferred surface. "The track bias kind of worked in my favor," Gaines admitted.

Did it ever. Despite the fast half-mile, Brite Sunny Day widened into the lane and won by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:37.62. She earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 86, and is the one to catch Sunday. Brite Sunny Day, owned by breeder John Harris, has won 4 of 11 and earned $187,796. The flaw to her form is obvious - her route win was under advantageous conditions not likely to be duplicated Sunday.

The Candi Queen has won 4 of 20, but is behind Brite Sunny Day on the class ladder. The Candi Queen has won most of her races against claimers and in her last start she finished second in a first-condition allowance restricted to Cal-breds.