06/10/2004 11:00PM

Black Bart puts owner in green


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The day was going from bad to worse for trainer Troy Bainum and owner Thomas Metzger. It was Dec. 19 at Hollywood Park when they lost a four-way shake for a $16,000 claiming filly. Bainum and Metzger were in a spending mood, however, so one race later they bought a California-bred gelding. He ran last.

was the first horse Bainum claimed for Metzger, vice-president of a Phoenix construction company, and Bainum said to himself, "Oh shoot, we just threw away $16,000."

Well, not quite. Only 11 days after the claim, Black Bart won a Turf Paradise allowance, and he has been rolling ever since. Black Bart has won 5 of 7 starts for Bainum, earned $173,829, and tries for more on Sunday in the $100,000 Quicken Tree Stakes at Hollywood Park.

A field of six entered the 1 1/2-mile turf race for California-breds, including 8-year-old veterans Ringaskiddy and Fade to Blue, the mare Shalini, Remonte, and Tiz a Coup. None have improved as dramatically as Black Bart, who gave Bainum his first California stakes win April 14, when he upset a good group in the $150,000 Khaled Stakes.

Black Bart has helped extend a hot streak for Bainum that began in 2003. Racing mainly in Arizona, the 34-year-old trainer won 86 races from 299 starts (28 percent) the past two years. It's a super record for the former San Diego meteorologist, who during 2001 and 2002 won all of two races.

On Sunday, Black Bart is back doing what he does best. Racing last time in a main-track sprint stakes, he finished a creditable third behind Taste of Paradise and Buddy Gil.

"He ran a great race, to get beat by a Grade 2 winner and the Santa Anita Derby winner," Bainum said. "To run like he did . . . shows how much heart he has, and how good he's doing right now."

Alex Solis rides Black Bart in the Quicken Tree, and the gelding could be loose out front. "We'll put him on the lead and let him cruise around there," Bainum said, before adding, "If someone wants to hook him, we can take back."

Black Bart, sired by Stage Colony, enters the Quicken Tree having won seven races and $258,649 from 27 starts. As for the filly that Bainum and Metzger were unable to claim Dec. 19, Western View has since won one race and less than $40,000 from seven starts for other connections. Said Bainum, "I think we get the better end of the deal."