11/08/2002 12:00AM

Who's going to Great State?

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The California Thoroughbred Breeders Association has submitted a list of statebreds that are potential starters for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's Great State Challenge race series at Sam Houston Race Park on Dec. 7.

Not surprisingly, the list of California-bred hopefuls includes several winners from last weekend's California Cup program.

The Great State Challenge comprises six races worth $275,000 each, bringing together horses bred from among 17 states. Eight states are guaranteed starting spots for their statebred representatives with the other berths coming from horses from nine other states.

California is guaranteed a starting berth in each race. The deadline for presenting the NTRA with a list of potential runners was Friday.

Grey Memo and Hot Market, who were fourth and fifth, respectively, in the California Cup Classic, are candidates for the Great State Classic, run over 1 1/8 miles.

Continental Red, a graded stakes winner on turf earlier this year and the runner-up in the Cal Cup Classic, may start in the Great State Turf, run over 1 1/8 miles. The list of California-breds being considered for the Turf includes Adminniestrator, Ninebanks, and Turkish Prize, the winner of the Cal Cup Mile.

Super High, the winner of the Cal Cup Matron, could start in the Distaff over 1 1/16 miles, while Crackup, the winner of the Cal Cup Juvenile, is under consideration for the seven-furlong Juvenile at Sam Houston.

Only the Best, whose fall campaign has been interrupted by a tender shin, and Excessive Barb, a stakes winner at Santa Anita in early October, are also being considered for the Juvenile.

In the Great State Sprint, Disturbingthepeace, a winner of three graded stakes in the summer, and Unlimited Value, the winner of the Cal Cup Sprint, are the top Cal-bred hopefuls.

In the Great State Juvenile Fillies, Humorous Lady is the state's top nominee. She won the Astarita Stakes at Belmont Park in October before finishing unplaced in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Arlington Park on Oct. 26.

Distance Cap will stay on Cal Cup card

The California Cup Distance Handicap, the newest addition to the California Cup program, will become a permanent fixture, according to CTBA executive vice president Doug Burge.

Run over 1 1/4 miles on turf for fillies and mares, the Distance Handicap was well received, drawing 11 starters. The Distance Handicap replaced a starter handicap for claimers. The race conditions were changed to give the runners black type, or stakes accreditation, for their performances.

"It's a race that fits well in our calendar," Burge said of the statebred program. "There isn't a race like it. The nominations came back with 29 early-bird noms; it was the lowest of the [Cal Cup] races. I was a little concerned with that, but the race proved very popular. It's here to stay."

Cal Cup's place on the calendar uncertain

When will the 2003 California Cup be held? That's a lingering question with no clear answer.

Oak Tree at Santa Anita is hosting the Breeders' Cup program for the first time in 10 years, on Oct. 25, 2003, and CTBA and Oak Tree officials have yet to finalize whether the California Cup will be held before or after the Breeders' Cup.

The options include the two Saturdays before the Breeders' Cup, or the week after. For the last two years, the California Cup has been held on the weekend after the Breeders' Cup and has been well supported by bettors.

Attendance figures have been mixed, however. While a crowd of more than 37,000 attended the 2001 running, there were only 27,901 at last weekend's event, a drop that left organizers baffled.

A move to a mid-October date would give some of the leading California-breds an opportunity to use the Cal Cup as a prep to the Breeders' Cup. A date after the Breeders' Cup could make the Cal Cup difficult to promote to a casual audience unaccustomed to making trips to the racetrack on consecutive weekends.

Burge said the issue will be discussed in the near future by the CTBA's California Cup committee.