09/08/2002 11:00PM

Bonapaw hits New York ground running

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ELMONT, N.Y. - The Bonapaw Road Show - which has taken the 6-year-old gelding this year from Des Moines to Dubai - will next play New York in the Grade 1 Vosburgh Handicap on Sept. 21 at Belmont Park.

Bonapaw, arguably the top sprinter in the Midwest, arrived here on Sept. 3, and on Monday morning he blazed five furlongs in 57.24 seconds over Belmont's main track, the fastest of 20 workouts at the distance by 3.40 seconds. With exercise rider Kevin Soodoo up, Bonapaw went his first three furlongs in 34.40 seconds and galloped out six furlongs in 1:09.40.

"He does that," trainer Norman Miller III said. "He's got so much natural speed and ability, that's the hole card for him. We got the services of Kevin Soodoo, who did a fantastic job. He said, 'I had a hold of him, but was that too fast?' I said all riders think that, but [Bonapaw] always works in that kind of time."

Miller was Bonapaw's groom when he was trained by Howard Alonzo. Since Alonzo does not travel, owners Dennis and Jimmy Richard opted to give the horse to Miller to train in March. Currently, Bonapaw is the only horse Miller trains.

A fan favorite in New Orleans, Bonapaw tried to expand his horizons by running in the Dubai Golden Shaheen in March, in which he finished sixth. Miller thought he might have had a better chance if he had gotten Bonapaw to Dubai earlier than he did.

Upon his return to the United States, Bonapaw finished fourth in the Iowa Sprint Handicap at Prairie Meadows on July 4 before returning to Arlington, where he won the Hanshin Handicap and the Arlington Sprint Handicap. In the Sprint Handicap he ran the fastest six furlongs of the meet, 1:09.13.

Considering Arlington Park is the site of next month's World Thoroughbred Championships, Bonapaw would be considered a contender in the $1 million Sprint. Problem is, Bonapaw is not Breeders' Cup nominated, and would have to be supplemented for a $200,000 fee. Miller said the Richards, who are twin brothers, don't want to put up that much money.

If the Richards could find someone to put up the supplemental fee, however, they would split the purse with that party for however many Breeders' Cup races Bonapaw runs in.

"They're probably still working on that back home in New Orleans," Miller said. "If he throws a good race here, there's a shot we're on the way back to Chicago instead of New Orleans."

Among the horses Bonapaw figures to meet in the Vosburgh are defending Sprint champion Squirtle Squirt, Aldebaran, Wild Summer, Voodoo, Griffinite, and Silky Sweep.

If the owners decide to skip the Breeders' Cup, Miller will van Bonapaw back to his farm just outside New Orleans following the Vosburgh and point the gelding to the Thanksgiving Day Handicap at Fair Grounds. Bonapaw has won that race the last two years.

Imperial Gesture may go in Beldame

Imperial Gesture, the impressive winner of last Saturday's Grade 1 Gazelle Handicap, will most likely make her next start in the $750,000 Beldame Stakes on Oct. 5.

Tom Albertrani, the New York-based Godolphin assistant trainer, said Imperial Gesture came out of the race in good order and, depending how she trains, may run in the Beldame or simply trains up to the Breeders' Cup Distaff on Oct. 26.

"I think you'd want to give her another race before the Breeders' Cup," Albertrani said. "A lot depends on how she trains. If she's training well, I don't see any reason why she shouldn't run."

In winning the Gazelle by 2 1/2 lengths over Take Charge Lady, Imperial Gesture ran nine furlongs in 1:47.12, which was .63 of a second faster than Lido Palace's time winning the Woodward two races later. Imperial Gesture earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 112, compared with 105 for Lido Palace.

"I don't like to compare times," Albertrani said, "but that was as good performance as we might have seen from a filly this year."

Perkins: Matron yes, Futurity no

Trainer Ben Perkins shipped a pair of 2-year-olds from Monmouth Park to Belmont over the weekend with hopes of running in next Sunday's pair of Grade 1, $200,000 races for juvenile colts and fillies.

But Unforgettable Max contracted a fever when he got here and will not run in the Futurity.

Wild Snitch, the Sorority winner, worked five furlongs in 1:01.47, her final move before Sunday's Grade 1 Matron. As a daughter of Forest Wildcat out of the fast stakes-winning Infomint, Wild Snitch is bred for speed. She has, however, won both of her races from off the pace.

"Her mother was lightning-fast," Perkins said. "This filly seems to have that speed, but if you didn't ask her she'd trail the field around there if you wanted her to. She's not one dimensional."

Perkins said Eibar Coa will come in to ride Wild Snitch in the Matron. Others expected to run in the one-mile race are Fircroft, Runaway Chanel, Storm Flag Flying, and possibly Harford Ghost, Shesasmokin, Stellar, and Vasquez.

- You, prepping for Saturday's Grade 1 Ruffian Handicap, on Sunday worked five furlongs in 1:01.95 over Belmont's main track.