01/21/2008 12:00AM

Two star mares top Millions lineup


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - There were few surprises when entries were drawn Sunday for the eight Sunshine Millions races, to be run Saturday at Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park.

As expected, Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Ginger Punch was one of 12 fillies and mares entered for the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff at Gulfstream, while Nashoba's Key will remain on grass to compete in the $500,000 Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita. Trainer Carla Gaines had also pre-entered Nashoba's Key for the $1 million Classic.

Both Ginger Punch and Nashoba's Key will be prohibitive favorites on Saturday.

Ginger Punch, the leading contender for 2007's champion older female, will break from post 2 under regular rider Rafael Bejarano in the Distaff.

Nashoba's Key, an Eclipse finalist in both the older female and turf female divisions, will again be ridden by Joe Talamo while facing just seven rivals in the Filly and Mare Turf. She suffered her only setback in eight starts when she finished fourth over a yielding course in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

The highlight of the Sunshine Millions, restricted to Florida-breds and California-breds, will be the Classic at Santa Anita. Here, too, there were no surprises at entry time. The Grade 1-placed Diamond Stripes and BC Dirt Mile runner-up Gottcha Gold head a strong Florida-bred contingent, while defending champion McCann's Mojave and Grade 1 winner Bilo top their California-bred counterparts.

Gottcha Gold did not fare well at the post-position draw. He will break from the outside in post 12 for the 1o1/8-mile Classic.

Diamond Stripes turned in his final prep for the Classic when he worked six furlongs in 1:14 at Palm Meadows on Monday.

Icy Atlantic will likely be favored to win the $500,000 Turf, which shares top billing at Gulfstream along with the Distaff. Icy Atlantic will be making his third start in the Turf, having finished third in 2006 and second, beaten two lengths by Lava Man, last year.

"He had a great year in 2007 for a horse originally purchased as a pacesetter for English Channel," trainer Todd Pletcher said of Icy Atlantic. "He's already run well in this race twice. He moved up one notch last year, and hopefully he'll be able to move up one more notch again on Saturday."

The $300,000 Sprint at Gulfstream also drew a strong field that includes Grade 1 winner Benny the Bull, Mach Ride, and the speedy Bushwacker.

Shaggy Mane will return to defend her title in the $300,000 Filly and Mare Sprint. She cruised to an easy 7o3/4-length triumph in the six-furlong race last winter at Gulfstream, but has gone winless in four subsequent starts. That stretch includes a second-place finish in Calder's Gradeo1 Princess Rooney Handicap.

Overall, 86 horses were entered, 46 for the four stakes at Gulfstream and 40 for the four at Santa Anita. All except the Filly and Mare Turf have at least 10 horses.