05/28/2001 11:00PM

War between state breds?

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - A day of stakes for horses bred in California and Florida has been discussed by Magna Entertainment and state breeding officials and could be implemented as early as next winter.

Tenatively titled the Sunshine Cup, the program was unveiled recently to top officials of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association by Frank Stronach, the chairman of Magna Entertainment, which owns Gulfstream Park in Florida and Santa Anita in California.

The concept, which officials emphasize is only in the discussion stage, would feature a championship-day program similar to the California Cup, which has been run at Santa Anita each fall since 1990.

The program would be run at Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park in January or February.

Unlike the California Cup, which is funded largely through purses, the Sunshine Cup would be funded primarily through nomination fees, according to proposals being discussed. The long-range plan would have horseowners pay nomination fees when the horses are weanlings, which could lead to purses of $300,000 to $400,000. Similar nomination programs are used to fund major Quarter Horse stakes.

"Frank seems to be excited about the prospect," said CTBA president Wes Fitzpatrick. "It's a concept that would bring some excitement and bring new energy into stakes. He's talking about significantly more money than most state-bred stakes. With the status of the Florida industry and the California industry, it's a natural rivalry."

Short-term funding, if the event were held in 2002, has not been finalized.

Santa Anita president Jack Liebau said one possibility would be to redirect existing stakes purses for California-breds to suppport the Sunshine Cup.

Presently, tracks are required by legislation to spend at least 10 percent of their stakes programs for state-breds.

"Maybe that could be changed so some of the money could be used for this," Liebau said. "My belief is that people want to get going as soon as possible."

The current proposal would call for eight races - including four for 3-year-olds - two sprints, and two races at a mile or farther.

Further discussions are expected in coming weeks to address funding and dates. Earlier this year, Magna heavily promoted a series of allowance races between horses based at Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park. The Santa Anita event was never held due to several problems, including concerns that horses based in Florida would test positive for medications that are not permitted to appear in postrace tests in California such as clenbuterol.

On March 10, two races featuring California and Florida allowance level horses were held at Gulfstream Park. The event was presented as if the horses represented teams from Los Angeles and Miami.

The status of that event is doubtful, especially if the Sunshine Cup program develops in coming months.

"I think this has come from that," Liebau said. "There would be more interest in this than there would be in Los Angeles versus Miami."

This year, breeders from California and Florida have been represented by horses who have won top-class stakes. Tiznow, the

2000 Horse of the Year, and Golden Ballet, one of the top 3-year-old fillies in the nation, are California-breds. Florida breeders have rallied around the success of Futural, Nany's Sweep, Skip to the Stone, and Wooden Phone, all of whom won stakes at Santa Anita earlier this year.

"We all think we breed better horses in California and vice versa," Fitzpatrick said. "Wasn't Silver Charm a Florida-bred? And Tiznow was bred in California. If it ever got to that point, it would make for some exciting

racing."