09/25/2002 12:00AM

Consider it a wash

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Tenpins may eventually be recognized as a force in the national handicap division, but more recently his fame has come because of mouthwash.

All set to return from a summer layoff designed to enhance the last third of his 4-year-old season, Tenpins missed the Sept. 14 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park when, shortly before the race, he was seen receiving a benign oral spray used to clear a horse's airway. Kentucky racing rules prohibit the administration of any medication within four hours of a race, and Turfway stewards scratched Tenpins.

The situation was seen as so unjust that the Kentucky Racing Commission quickly moved to change the four-hour rule as it applied to the mouthwash - but that did little for Tenpins and his connections, owner Joseph Vitello and trainer Don Winfree. Winfree quickly turned his attention to the job of redirecting Tenpins to another race, Sunday's Grade 2 Washington Park Handicap.

"I don't want to talk about that stuff anymore," Winfree said this week. "It kind of confused the issue a little bit, that's all. The problem would have been if he'd gotten some kind of injury. This was just an inconvenience."

Winfree is not especially concerned about the sudden change in plans, though bringing Tenpins back from a 14-week break in a 1 3/16-mile race is not ideal. Still, Tenpins helped calm doubts about his readiness with a strong seven-furlong work at Churchill Downs the week after his untimely scratch. "I put a horse in front of him, and he went six furlongs in 1:13, seven furlongs in 1:26 and out in 1:40," Winfree said.

When he last raced, Tenpins was a distant third to Street Cry in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster, and Winfree felt giving his horse time would be of greater benefit than pushing on. "He's a big, long, rangy horse, and he's really filling in," Winfree said. "I look for him to be an even better 5-year-old."

Tenpins is one of only five horses confirmed for the Washington Park. Macho Uno is the likely favorite, with Bonus Pack, Generous Rosi, and Pleasant Breeze also likely to run. Macho Uno came out of a Monday work here in good shape, according to assistant trainer Russell Derderian, and remains on target for the Washington Park.

Dropout from Sea O' Erin

Buenos Dias has joined the field for Sunday's $150,000 Sea O' Erin, but Wednesday also brought news that Del Mar Show, who would have been a strong favorite in the race, will not make the trip. Trainer Bill Mott told Arlington officials that the Sea O' Erin was too close to Del Mar Show's last start, the Sept. 8 Atto Mile.

That means a Wednesday night plane from New York will carry only two horses for Sunday's stakes, Pleasant Breeze for the Washington Park and Capsized for the Sea O' Erin.

Capsized, winner of two straight at the Saratoga meet, is the likely favorite and will have Gary Stevens aboard for the race. A lightly raced 6-year-old, Capsized has battled sore feet for much of his career, but began wearing glue-on shoes this summer and has thrived physically in the last few months.

"Since his last race he's trained well and his feet have been good," Lisa Lewis said.

Lewis said Capsized could earn a berth in the Breeders' Cup Mile with a strong performance Sunday.

Mystery Giver worked a half-mile Wednesday in about 49 seconds to the satisfaction of trainer Chris Block, but Block worries there won't be enough pace for his horse to run at Sunday. Still, Mystery Giver is sharp right now and has gained 80 to 100 pounds since a disastrous start in the Arlington Million, a positive sign from a colt who has struggled to keep on weight.

The return of Bonapaw

Bonapaw was scheduled to leave Belmont Park by van about 4 a.m. Thursday and arrive that evening at Arlington, where he will train up to the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Norman Miller, Bonapaw's trainer, will himself drive Bonapaw back to Arlington.

Bonapaw trained here much of the summer and won two Arlington stakes, but he was shipped to Belmont, where he won the Grade 1 Vosburgh last weekend. Bonapaw's owners, Dennis and Jim Richard, decided to point Bonapaw to the Sprint upon learning a Breeders' Cup supplementary eligibility fee would be $90,000, $110,000 less than they had believed.

Miller said Bonapaw would have only one breeze before the Sprint, probably a five-furlong work 12 days before the race.