01/30/2006 1:00AM

Bordonaro took time to shine

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Now that Bordonaro has established himself as a beast of both speed and considerable class, questions arise. Where did he come from? What was he doing at 2 and 3? And is there a Mr. Bordonaro?

As the winner of the $300,000 last Saturday at Gulfstream Park, Bordonaro deserves all the attention he can get. Six furlongs at full steam can be a tough race, and there are a lot of Thoroughbreds who do it well. He did it in 1:08.57, leading with his left all the way around the turn and through the stretch to beat local hope Tacirring by three-quarters of a length.

Stir in the fact that Bordonaro was a rookie on the road, acting every bit the part of a fussy traveler who changed rooms and picked at his food until someone finally promised him that the faster he ran, the sooner he would get to go home.

"He's never been a nervous horse," said Bordonaro's trainer, Bill Spawr. "I guess it was taking him out of his environment. But it was a nightmare. I just wasn't ready for him to do that. We got him out early and stayed with him until late at night, just so he wouldn't get all worked up."

Now that Spawr knows about a few of the things that tripped Bordonaro's switch, he can anticipate possible problems as plans are laid for the rest of the year. In the meantime, questions can be answered at leisure.

Bordonaro is a 5-year-old gelding, bred and owned by Fred Carrillo and Dan Cassella, and named for the family of Cassella's wife, the former Sally Bordonaro. And yes, there were plenty of Bordonaros cheering on Bordonaro at Gulfstream.

Bordonaro is the second foal of the Rajab mare Miss Excitement, purchased privately by Spawr in 1994 for a partnership that included Carrillo and Cassella.

"She really lived up to her name," said Carrillo, a veteran Spawr client. "Broke a starter's hand, broke Laffit Pincay's hand. And the last time I visited her she got me when I forgot to bring her carrots."

As families go, Miss Excitement has plenty to spare. She came into this world a half-sister to the durable stakes winner Seahawk Gold. And anyone tracing back through five female generations will arrive at the mare Dog Blessed, a daughter of Bull Dog, who also produced the 1956 sprint champion, Decathlon.

Bordonaro was sired by the Chilean beefcake Memo, a California stalwart who stands at Ridgeley Farm in Hemet. His sons and daughters tend toward handsome. Grey Memo and McCann's Mojave were his two best until Bordonaro came along.

Bordonaro came into Spawr's hands at age 2, and he was about ready to run when he fractured a sesamoid in a hind ankle. That was that. Surgery was performed to remove the chip, and the fragment was small. But the prognosis was only so-so, and hopes were not particularly high. When Bordonaro finally made it to the races, in February 2005, he acted like a horse with a problem behind, whose only real cure was a drop in class.

On April Fool's Day last year, Bordonaro could have been claimed for $32,000 out of a race at Santa Anita. There were no takers, and he won by five. Since then he has gone 6 for 7.

"I give these owners a lot of credit for the success of this horse," Spawr said. "Not too many people would have given him the kind of time he needed to mature and progress."

Carrillo accepts the compliment, although there wasn't much choice. Anyway, his faith in Spawr has deep roots, back to 1982.

"I was partners with Hobie Alter at the time," Carrillo said, "and I think Bill might have had only one other horse when we met him. So we really had a private trainer."

Alter's name is familiar to anyone who has ever been on or around one of his famous Hobie Cat sailboats. Carrillo is every bit as well known in his corner of the competitive sports world as a legendary dry lakebed hot rodder from the 1950's, when he pushed fast cars to record speeds at places like the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. His driving career ended when he lost his left leg from below the knee after a high-speed crack-up.

It didn't stop Carrillo from learning how to ski, nor did it put a crimp in his business side. His Carrillo Industries, based in San Clemente, Calif., pioneered a steel connecting rod that was eventually found on nearly every top-class racing machine, from Indy cars to Can-Am to Formula One. Carrillo sold his company five years ago to Dover Corp.

"I'm not real sure where he'll run next," Spawr said of Bordonaro. "He lost some weight on this trip, so we'll give him a little time. He's not eligible for the Breeders' Cup, which means a lot of things will need to happen before we'd think about that.

"Anyway, the owners love Del Mar," Spawr added. "So it doesn't really matter what I do with him, as long as I have him ready for the Bing Crosby."