01/06/2004 1:00AM

Bonapaw retired for now

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The Grade 1 winner Bonapaw, an unlikely star, has been retired, but his owner, Dennis Richard, left open the possibility of another comeback.

Bonapaw, 8, began his career at little Evangeline Downs, but he made it to New York, where he won the Grade 1 Vosburgh in September 2002. That was the biggest win in Bonapaw's long career, but also his last victory of consequence. He lost nine straight starts after the Vosburgh, and after an allowance win last October at Keeneland, Bonapaw lost twice more at Fair Grounds, a track where he once was nearly invincible in sprint races.

Bonapaw was seventh in a grass sprint on Dec. 12, and after Richard watched Bonapaw work five furlongs in about 1:02 on Dec. 28, he decided to end the horse's racing career.

"It was so much slower than he used to work," said Richard. "He's got arthritis, and he must have developed a breathing problem."

Bonapaw is stabled at trainer Norman Miller's Millionaire Farm near Folsom, La. For most of his career, Bonapaw campaigned for Richard and his identical twin brother, Jimmy, who died last year.

Richard didn't rule out giving Bonapaw one more crack at racing, but said he would do so only if Bonapaw seemed unhappy with farm life.

"He'll never run for a tag, I'll tell you that," Richard said. "He's done too much for too many people."