04/05/2008 12:00AM

Bonfante sets Bay Meadows course record


SAN MATEO, Calif. – Bonfante set a course record with a 56.28-second clocking for five furlongs as he won his third straight California Turf Sprint at Bay Meadows on Saturday.

The race was roughly run early as Vaderator drifted in at the start, bumping Tribesman to start a chain reaction that also included Zoning In, who got squeezed back after he bumped with Midnight Cabinet.

Tribesman led by a head down the backstretch and began to increase his margin on the turn through fractions of 21.44 and 44.35 seconds and led by two lengths in the lane.

But Bonfante, seventh in the field of nine at the three-eighths pole, was flying along the rail after getting through inside of Midnight Cabinet. Indian Ashton was also flying along the outside in his first start since last Aug. 23. Both drove past Tribesman, who faded to fifth, with Bonfante winning by a head. Indian Ashton beat third-place Acquire the Fire by two lengths for second.

The final time broke Excessive Barb’s course record on 56.32 set May 30, 2004.Bonfante paid $5.20 to win.

"He broke really sharp, and I took a little hold," winning jockey Frank Alvarado said. "I was a little farther back, but they were cooking up front. I was a little worried around the three-eighths pole. I just had to be patient and hope it would open up. As soon as I got through, he was a different horse."

Owner-breeder Lewis Figone said Bonfante’s next start would be in the Grade 2, $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder on July 12. Figone said he "got a little nervous on the turn. He was pretty far back this time, but Frank gave him a good ride."

Bonfante won last year's edition of the race by a length over No Derby and the 2006 edition by 21/4 lengths over Old Man River. He wassecond in the 2005 race, losing by two lengths to Exceeding.

Tribesman's jockey Chad Schvaneveldt said "He really had no excuse other than he seemed unsure of the turf."

Bonfante, a 7-year-old gelding by Fruition out of Figone’s mare Tahoma Cat, notched his 12th career victory, earning $60,000 in the race for Cal-breds. He increased his career earnings to $696,121.