09/02/2004 11:00PM

Black Bart puts Bainum in the green


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Last Dec. 19, trainer Troy Bainum put in a claim for two horses at Hollywood Park. He lost the shake for Western View, who finished second in the second race, a $16,000 claimer. He put in a claim before the third race for Black Bart, who finished last for $16,000 - his third straight last-place finish.

As it turns out, Bainum got the right horse.

Western View has started 10 times since Dec. 19 and has won two allowance races.

Black Bart, 5, has also started 10 times since. Owned by Thomas Metzger Sr., he has six victories - four in stakes - a second, a third, and two fourths, while earning $234,810.

On Monday at Bay Meadows, Black Bart will try to add a victory in the $100,000 California Turf Championship to his resume.

"Basically, I took a shot because he had conditions," Bainum said, explaining why he claimed Black Bart. "At first, I said, 'Shoot' - because I saw his trainer was happy to lose him."

Bainum brought Black Bart to Turf Paradise in Phoenix, and with the weaker competition there, he says he thinks the gelding's confidence grew.

"He'll run through a brick wall for you," Bainum said. "He walks on the track like a bull, walks off the track like a bull. He keeps going. He never gets tired."

Bainum did, he said, the "basics you're supposed to do" with a new horse after a claim. He got Black Bart to put on weight and made one major change. "I put him on turf," he said. "He took to it like a duck to water."

Black Bart won two allowance races at Turf Paradise, then ran second in the Turf Paradise Breeders' Cup Handicap on the grass. He then won two small stakes in Phoenix, one on dirt, one on grass, and ventured back to Hollywood Park to run against Cal-breds in the $150,000 Khaled. He won by a half-length, beating millionaire Continental Red.

"In Phoenix, he's a cult hero. They said the whole place was rocking when he won," Bainum said.

After running third in the Ack Ack at Hollywood, he won the 1 1/2-mile Quicken Tree on the Hollywood turf and has run fourth in stakes at Hollywood and Del Mar in his past two starts.

Although Bainum wishes Monday's race was longer than a mile, he expects a big effort from Black Bart.

"It's against Cal-breds," he said, "and he's beaten the best Cal-breds."

* Street Theatre, second in the Grade 2 Arlington Classic and third in the Grade 3 Will Rogers, will be the one to beat as he returns to allowance conditions in Sunday's Bay Meadows feature, a $40,000 optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles over the turf.