06/09/2001 11:00PM

Bienamado victorious in Whittingham


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - With races in Chicago and New York on his summer and fall schedule and a possible retirement at the end of the year, Bienamado might have made his final start in California in Sunday's $350,000 Charles Whittingham Handicap at Hollywood Park.

If so, he saved his best for last. Sent off as the 1-2 favorite and 124-pound highweight, Bienamado beat four other graded stakes winners convincingly for his third major stakes win of the year.

"Right now, I think he's at his best," said trainer Paco Gonzalez. Ridden by Chris McCarron, Bienamado was second to Bombard for the first mile of the Whittingham. McCarron appeared as if he could have engaged the leader on the backstretch, but waited until the final turn.

In early stretch, Bienamado took the lead, quickly pulling away by 1 1-2 lengths. McCarron urged him through the final furlong, and finished 1 1-4 miles on turf in 1:59.34 before an ontrack crowd of 10,862.

"It would take an awfully good horse to beat him, one that has to run 22 and change the last quarter because he ran 23 and one today," McCarron said.

"There aren't many horses that can do that."

Senure and Timboroa, two 5-year-olds trained by Bobby Frankel, finished second and third. White Heart, the winner of the Woodford Reserve Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 5, finished fourth, missing second by a nose and a head. White Heart was ridden by Victor Espinoza, a late replacement for Gary Stevens, who injured his knee in the post parade of the preceding race. Bienamado is scheduled to start in the $1 million Arlington Million on Aug. 18, a turf stakes at Belmont Park in the fall that precedes the Breeders' Cup Turf on Oct. 27.

If retired at the end of the year, a serious possibility, Bienamado's West Coast career has ended after an unbeaten run of six stakes win on turf.

"It could be," said John Toffan, who co-owns Bienamado with Robert Sangster and Trudy McCaffery. "Paco doesn't want to run at Del Mar and wants to train him up to the Arlington Million. That's the plan we mapped out and we want to stick to it. We haven't talked about next year."

*Connate, the longest price in the field, pulled a come-from-behind upset in the $85,050 Great Lady M Handicap for fillies and mares on turf.

Separata, the 3-10 favorite, broke through the gate before the start and dueled with Fair Apache for the lead before fading to finish fifth. It set her off and blew her mind," said Richard Mandella, who trains Separata. "Her nose is all skinned up."

Connate ($67.40), ridden by Isaias Enriquez, won by two lengths over Dusty Heather, running 5 1-2 furlongs in 1:02.52. Fair Apache finished third. A 6-year-old New Zealand-bred mare owned by John and Julius Zolezzi and trained by Tim Pinfield, Connate was winning for the first time since arriving in the United States last year.

As a result of Separata finishing fifth, the show payoffs on the first three were unusually high. Connate paid $35; Dusty Heather paid $12 and Fair Apache returned $20.60.