10/05/2006 12:00AM

Bonfante looks too good for turf rivals


ALBANY, Calif. - The only place other than turf that trainer Steve Specht would rather run Saturday's $75,000 Fort Mason at Golden Gate Fields would be on paper. The Specht-trained Bonfante, on paper at least, looks tough in the five-furlong turf race for Cal-breds.

Bonfante is the lone stakes winner in the field, and in his past two tries at the distance in northern California, he finished second to Exceeding in the $100,000 California Sprint Championship last September and won the same race when it was rescheduled this spring.

Bonfante comes off a seventh in the Green Fish Handicap at Del Mar, but he has won only 2 of 8 races in Southern California and never hit the board in a stakes there, and his best races have come under the supervision of Specht in northern California.

Bonfante is at his best when he sits back early and makes a strong move on the turn. Those tactics led to three straight stakes victories last year and was the strategy he employed in winning the California Sprint Championship this year. He had no chance against runaway speedballs on the main track in his next two starts and never got into the race at Del Mar.

Bonfante got sick nine days ago, but Specht said "he's on the road to recovery."

"This is not the way you want to go into a race, getting sick a week out," he said. "We caught it quick, but he hung his head for three days."

Bonfante worked slowly Wednesday, going four furlongs in 51.20 seconds, but Specht said that was by design.

"I breezed him as easy as we could take him," said Specht.

Bonfante's main opponent may be Slew's Prince, who ran third to Bonfante's seventh in the Green Fish.

In addition to Bonfante and Slew's Prince, Marsh Creek is the only member in the field of 10 who has been stakes-placed. He makes his turf debut and his first start in almost 11 months.

The weekend forecast is for sun and warming weather, so the race is expected to remain on the turf. The race will be the first turf sprint at Golden Gate Fields in one month, as the track has tried to keep the heavily used course from being torn up too much.