06/26/2003 11:00PM

Bonus Pack better suited for one turn


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Bonus Pack has beaten this path before. Two seasons ago, as a 3-year-old struggling to win his maiden, Bonus Pack left Churchill Downs and two-turn racing to try a one-turn dirt mile at Arlington. He won by 13 lengths, and the victory propelled him to a 4-year-old campaign where Bonus Pack earned more than a quarter-million dollars.

He's back under similar circumstances. Since an easy win Jan. 13 at Tampa Bay Downs, a prep race to start his year, Bonus Pack has lost five times, all in true route races, and he has dropped two recent decisions by a total of a half-length. Trainer Tom Proctor wants to shake things up. Bonus Pack will run here Sunday in the $100,000 Hanshin, another one-turn mile at Arlington.

"We're seeing if one turn is his lick," Proctor said. "He seems to run good all the time, but he loses a lot of photos."

Proctor and owner Leonard Lavin have swung up and down with Bonus Pack. "He's won almost $400,000. You can't complain about that," Proctor said. Yet Bonus Pack has given signs at times that he would be even better. After an easy win last summer in the Dominion Day at Woodbine, Bonus Pack earned a trip to the Grade 1 Pacific Classic, but finished eighth. Last winter he was pointed to the Grade 1 Donn, but beat only two horses and was ninth.

"He's one that maybe had fooled us a bit into thinking he's a top, top horse," said Proctor. "But there's nothing wrong with him. I think he can be around for a long time."

A Grade 3, the Hanshin is more Bonus Pack's level, and he has run well in all three starts at Arlington. He faces eight rivals Sunday, including the Spanky Broussard-trained entry of San Pedro and Castlewood.

The field bunches together on paper - as many as seven horses are legitimate contenders. There's Zealous is the fastest of them, but was beaten more than 16 lengths in a recent allowance race at Churchill. But last fall, just four races ago, There's Zealous won the Cigar Handicap here by six lengths, going a mile in 1:33.60.

Bright Valour, placed first in the 2000 Hanshin after Yankee Victor tested positive for a banned medication, beat Apt to Be by three-quarters of a length in the 2001 Hanshin, and their paths cross again Sunday. Both horses exit strong allowance wins, Bright Valour's on May 17, Apt to Be's three weeks ago.

"He's training real well," said Chris Block, who trains Apt to Be for Arlington chairman Dick Duchossois. "A mile and a sixteenth around two turns, I wouldn't try it. But a one-turn mile out of the chute, it's worth a shot.