01/24/2008 12:00AM

Young breeding programs renew rivalry

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The California-Florida rivalry, enhanced these last five years by the Sunshine Millions, reflects these states' breeding programs, both of which are relatively new and may be measured in decades rather than centuries.

In the previous five years, 40 races in all, Florida-breds have won 25 races while Californians have won 15. This year, 86 horses are scheduled to start, and the total count is 43 Florida-breds and 43 Cal-breds.

Gulfstream begins the eight-race program with the Sunshine Millions Sprint. There are 11 entered, and all but one are Florida-breds - but only Finallymadeit is by a currently active Florida stallion. That stallion is Concerto, and he stands at Ocala Stud. All the other sires of Florida-breds in this race have either died or been relocated.

The Sunshine Millions Oaks belies its name, as it is a sprint for 3 year-old fillies; Oaks races are customarily at a mile or more. Eight Florida-breds and three Cal-breds are entered. The Ocala Stud stallion Montbrook, among Florida's leading sires and especially effective as a sire of top-class sprinters, has two representatives in this race: Blitzing, bred and raced by Heiligbrodt Racing Stable, and the Centaur Farm-bred Phantom Income. Gibson County, who was a speedball himself and a source of fleet feet, is the sire of Oaks hopeful American County. Straight Man, by the late Saint Ballado, has sired the winners of more than $5.5 million, and he is the sire of the stakes winner Robbie's Gal.

The Sunshine Millions Distaff lists 11 probable starters, four of them Florida-breds. There is not much that one can add to the fact that Ginger Punch, the Eclipse-winning older filly or mare, is scheduled to compete. The Adena Springs homebred will be odds-on, but Florida cannot claim full credit for this champion as her sire, Awesome Again, stands in Kentucky.

The Turf completes the Gulfstream part of the Sunshine Millions program, and nine of the 12 entered are Floridians. The Ocala Breeders' Sales. Co. is a sponsor of the race, and Randy Edwards, the sales company's chief financial officer, will present the trophy to the winner.

Edwards and his wife, Lucy, have a broodmare band of 10, and they bred Turf entrant Birdbirdistheword. He is a son of the Kentucky stallion Pure Prize out of Berchta, by Rocky Mountain. The Edwardses bought Berchta at the OBS 2003 fall mixed sale for $10,000.

"Lucy and I liked the page," he said, "and we certainly like it better now than when we bought the mare. I sold Birdbirdistheword at the '04 OBS August yearling sales for $32,000. He's done well, earning over $700,000, but none of it in Florida; if he wins Saturday, it will be the first breeders' award we'll be getting."

The dam has since produced a filly by Lido Palace and is currently in foal to Pure Prize.

In the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita, Dearest Trickski should be in line for some sort of Horatio Alger award. Bred in Florida by the Jayaraman brothers, she has climbed up from the $10,000 claiming level at Oaklawn Park last winter to win the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 29. She is somewhat unusually bred for a sprinter, being by Proudest Romeo, who is by the stayer Proud Truth; her dam, Trickski, is by another distance horse, Peteski.

The Filly and Mare Turf has contenders from two upscale Ocala establishments that breed most of the horses they race. Snow Cone, by Cryptoclearance, is raced by her breeder, Charlotte Weber of Live Oak Stud. Quite a Bride, by Stormy Atlantic, is a homebred of Julio Bozano's Haras Santa Maria de Araras. These two fillies met Jan. 3 at Gulfstream, with Quite a Bride finishing first and Snow Cone second. Another F&M Turf runner is Placid Lake, bred by the Sherman family's Farnsworth Farms, which shut down two years ago - but their homebreds keep winning. Placid Lake, by Greenwood Lake out of a Fortunate Prospect mare, has won or finished second in seven straight races. In her last effort, the mare won the Glendale Handicap at Turf Paradise.

The Sunshine Millions Dash has three Florida-breds scheduled to start. Johns Grooms was bred in Florida by the late Arthur Appleton. He is by the Bridlewood Farm stallion Put It Back and is out of a mare by Katowice. The pedigree suggests speed, and that's what Johns Grooms is all about. The

3-year-old colt has 2 wins and 2 seconds in

4 starts.

The Sunshine Millions Classic shapes up as the best race on the program. In the race's previous five runnings, California holds the edge by a 3-2 margin. This year Florida will be led by two millionaires, Buzzards Bay and Go Between, while California counters with millionaire McCann's Mojave, upset winner of this race last year at Gulfstream.

Buzzards Bay has won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and Grade 2 Oaklawn Park Handicap, and earned $1.35 million. He was bred in Florida by Jay Shaw and went through the OBS sales ring no less than four times. He is by Marco Bay, a stakes-winning son of Copelan, and is out of Life Lass, by the Alydar stallion Seneca Jones.

Go Between is by the Kentucky stallion Point Given and out of a mare by Caerleon. His pedigree suggests turf, and that's where he has made his mark. Go Between, however, did win his only effort on a synthetic course, the Grade 3 Fayette on Polytrack at Keeneland.