08/23/2002 11:00PM

Chalky Bonapaw cruises

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - With jockey Gerard Melancon barely moving a muscle, heavily favored Bonapaw pulled away to post a popular victory Saturday in the $100,000 Arlington Sprint Handicap at Arlington Park.

Bonapaw, a 6-year-old gelding who now has won 16 of 33 lifetime starts, dueled early with Tic N Tin in the six-furlong race, then pulled away down the stretch to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Secret Romeo was all-out to get second by a head over Tic N Tin, who was followed by Sand Ridge and Halo Cat in a field of five older horses.

Bonapaw returned $3.40 after finishing in 1:09.13, the fastest time at the distance through 59 days of the Arlington meet. He won so impressively that Equibase trackman Dwayne Hatch gave him a rare "easily" comment for the victory.

Bonapaw, entered off a victory in the one-mile Hanshin Handicap in his previous start, carried 124 pounds, spotting the field five to nine pounds. He is owned by Jimmy and Dennis Richard and trained by Norman Miller III.

"He was outstanding today," said Melancon. "In the post parade, he was full of himself, and I knew he was going to throw in a big race."

Bonapaw, bred in Kentucky by Dr. William O. Reed, earned $60,000, lifting his career bankroll to $851,636.

Miller said the $150,000 Sea o' Erin Breeders' Cup Mile, a one-mile turf race on Sept. 29, probably will be the next race for Bonapaw.

"He's got no holes in him right now," said Miller. "He's 100 percent right now."

Secret Romeo, a Michigan-bred coming off a win in the Arneault Memorial at Mountaineer, completed a $2 exacta that paid $11.60.