05/27/2004 11:00PM

Black Bart has outrun expectations


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The $16,000 that Tom Metzger and trainer Troy Bainum spent to claim Black Bart in December at Hollywood Park was intended to give them a horse capable of winning allowance races at Turf Paradise.

Black Bart, a California-bred, accomplished that goal 11 days after he was claimed. It is the four wins this year, including an upset win in the $150,000 Khaled Stakes on turf at Hollywood Park on April 24, that have left Metzger and Bainum surprised.

Monday, Black Bart will attempt to win his fourth consecutive race in the $75,000 Ack Ack Handicap over 7 1/2 furlongs at Hollywood Park.

It will be a tough test for the 5-year-old gelding. The field is led by Buddy Gil, the winner of the 2003 Santa Anita Derby.

Bainum, 34, says Black Bart is ready.

"The way he trains over the main track, he's a monster right now," he said. "If he transfers the turf form over to dirt, I give him a big shot."

Black Bart was claimed from his breeders, Ed and Sharon Hudon. Black Bart is by Stage Colony, who is by Pleasant Colony and stands at Ballena Vista Farm in Ramona, Calif. The Hudons own Stage Colony and Surachai, another stallion based at Ballena Vista.

Black Bart is out of Lyrical Pirate, who won 4 of 17 starts and $104,370. The highlight of her career was a win in the $44,800 California Girls Handicap at Golden Gate Fields in April 1989.

Ed Hudon bought Lyrical Pirate because he thought she would make a good match for Stage Colony. He no longer owns the mare, who has since produced Custom Table, a stakes winner in Arizona.

"I bought the mare because of a nicking," he said. "She was by Pirate's Bounty, and it was supposed to be a good nick with a stallion that we owned."

The Hudons raced Black Bart with trainer Grant Hofmans. In May 2003, Black Bart finished sixth in a statebred allowance race at Hollywood Park. After being given 90 days' rest, Black Bart returned to finish seventh in an optional claimer for statebreds at Hollywood Park.

"We have so many horses in training that we decided to drop him," Hudon said.

Since being claimed, Black Bart has won 5 of 6 starts. Racing at Turf Paradise, Black Bart won two allowance races, finished second by a head in the $150,000 Turf Paradise Breeders' Cup Handicap in early February, and won two minor stakes.

In the Khaled Stakes, he led throughout and held off a late run from Lennyfromalibu and Continental Red to win by a half-length.

"When I saw the accomplishment that this new trainer was getting, I made contact with him and congratulated him," Hudon said. "A lot of people, when they lose a horse, they don't want the horse to move on. We're very happy. It makes us feel very good."

The Hudons breed their mares to stallions based in California and Kentucky. They recently purchased a 216-acre farm in central Kentucky, which is being refurbished. They plan to retire there when Ed, 65, retires. Hofmans is planning to relocate his stable to Kentucky next month, and will train there for the Hudons.

The Hudons have bred their mares to such nationally prominent stallions as Giant's Causeway, Silver Charm, and Stravinsky this year.

Of course, with Black Bart, the Hudons have the consolation of receiving a breeder's award for the gelding's success in California races.

Bainum is hopeful that Black Bart can return in the $100,000 Quicken Tree Stakes for statebreds on June 13 and then go for the $125,000 Claiming Crown Jewel at Canterbury Park in July.

"I've got him mapped out for the next few months," Bainum said. "He's a big, good-looking horse. I knew I had a special horse when I got him back to Phoenix and he started galloping. I said, 'Wow, I think we have a nice one.' "