02/28/2002 1:00AM

Arromanches streak ends as trainer's continues


JAMAICA, N.Y. - The magical run of Arromanches is over. The mystifying run of Arthur Wendel continues.

Arromanches, the near-white 9-year-old horse who had won 10 consecutive races, finished fifth, beaten 12 3/4 lengths by Esteemed Friend in a $65,000 claiming race Thursday at Aqueduct. He was making his first start for trainer Arthur Wendel, who claimed Arromanches for $50,000 in his last start. The loss was the 98th straight for Wendel, dating back to May 5, 2000.

Arromanches, under Chuck Lopez, was off a step slowly and raced fourth early before moving into third around the turn. When Lopez asked for run, he got no response and wrapped up on Arromanches through the stretch.

"As I went past the half-mile pole it seemed more and more like I was in trouble," said Lopez, who had been aboard for the entire streak.

"I was losing ground and I couldn't stay where I was. Going to the three-eighths pole he just didn't feel up to it. My priority, besides winning the race, was to make sure that the horse that is so dear to me doesn't get hurt."

For Wendel - who at 82 is the oldest active trainer on the New York Racing Association circuit - the loss was painful.

"Was it hard to take?" Wendel said, repeating a reporter's question. "It wasn't hard, it was extremely difficult to take. But I've been fighting all my life. We'll see what happens."

There were no claims put in for Arromanches. Trainer Scott Lake, who had the horse claimed from him by Wendel, said he and owner Richard Englander considered it.

"It's hard to pay $65,000 for him," said Lake, who wished Wendel good luck before the race.