08/22/2002 12:00AM

Classic longshot guided by a pair of Proctors


DEL MAR, Calif. - There is a sense of permanence around the stable of Leonard Lavin's Glen Hill Farm not found often in racing. For 35 years, and through two generations, Lavin has employed a member of the Proctor family as a trainer or farm manager.

There is a desire to do well, of course, but also a desire to take the time to do it right. And this process has enabled Bonus Pack to emerge as a live longshot in Sunday's $1 million Pacific Classic.

Bonus Pack is the other near-black horse in the race. Like the heralded War Emblem, Bonus Pack is a dark bay whose coat looks black when the sun hits it. The comparisons end there, however.

Bonus Pack is 4, a year older than War Emblem. War Emblem has won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, as well as the Haskell Invitational. Bonus Pack took 10 starts merely to win a maiden race, and only last month entered, and won, his first stakes race. War Emblem likes to get to the front as quickly as possible. Bonus Pack prefers to lay off the pace, then rally. And while War Emblem could enjoy a lengthy career at stud, Bonus Pack will enjoy a lengthy career as a racehorse, because he's no longer equipped to do anything else.

"He was gelded on Dec. 3," said Hap Proctor. He is the general manager of Lavin's 335-acre Florida farm and spends the summers at Del Mar as the assistant trainer to his younger brother, Tom, who has horses for Lavin in California, Illinois, and Kentucky. "He wasn't a studdish-acting horse, but he always trained better than he ran, and we thought maybe his [testicles] were bothering him. He won 31 days later."

And he has kept right on winning. Bonus Pack has won four times in eight starts this year, and comes off a 5 3/4-length victory in the Dominion Day Handicap at Woodbine on July 1. That race, like the Pacific Classic, was at 1 1/4 miles, but the competition was clearly inferior. Can Bonus Pack beat War Emblem, Sky Jack, and 11 others on Sunday?

"I don't have a clue," Hap Proctor said, laughing. "I don't know if this is one step up, or a whole flight of stairs. In the past they've had small fields for this race. This year, it's a record-sized field. We're not scaring anybody off, are we?"

There's usually plenty of laughter around the barn. Hap, a lanky 49-year-old, and Tom, a stocky 46-year-old, take their jobs seriously, but not themselves. And they engage in morning-long repartee with the 82-year-old Lavin, who gives as good as he gets.

Lavin, who made his fortune as the head of cosmetics giant Alberto-Culver, has been a lifelong racing fan. His success in the sport coincided with his hiring in 1967 of Willard Proctor, the old-school horseman who led two of his sons into the sport. Both Hap and Tom have been associated their entire professional lives with Lavin.

"He's put a lot of Proctors through college," Hap said.

Hap trained in California until 12 years ago, when he took the farm manager position in Ocala. Tom has trained since 1978, and scored his biggest victory, and Lavin's, in the 1994 Breeders' Cup Distaff with One Dreamer.

This summer at Del Mar, they are trying to win not only the Pacific Classic with Bonus Pack, but also the Del Mar Derby with Dell Place, who captured the Relaunch Stakes earlier this meet.

Lavin both breeds and buys horses. Bonus Pack, a son of Colonial Affair, was purchased as a yearling for $100,000.

"When we bought him, Tom said he thought he could win the Belmont," Lavin said. "He didn't say he would. He said he could."

The Proctors, and Lavin, are quietly confident that Bonus Pack will acquit himself well on Sunday, War Emblem notwithstanding.

"It wouldn't surprise me if he won," Tom Proctor said. "I'm not saying he will win, but it wouldn't surprise me."

"That's what we at our company call p.m.a. - positive mental attitude," Lavin said. "Tom's embraced that for a long time. We have another saying - winners make it happen, losers let it happen."

Bonus Pack will try to make it happen Sunday.