12/08/2005 12:00AM

Happy Hunting is running to his breeding after slow start

Lion Tamer's future is uncertain after a potential sale fell through.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - As far as realizing his potential, it's better late than never for Happy Hunting.

A regally bred 4-year-old son of Seeking the Gold, Happy Hunting made it three consecutive wins and four from his last five starts Thursday when he won a third-level allowance race by 1 1/4 lengths over longshot Olivers Success at Aqueduct. Happy Hunting ($5.10) ran a mile and 70 yards in 1:42.43 in his first start around two turns.

While he didn't beat a stellar field, Happy Hunting put forth a solid effort, considering he attended fast early fractions - he chased an opening half-mile in 46.30 seconds - and drifted out in the stretch. Happy Hunting is out of the mare Furlough, who won the Grade 1 Ballerina. Happy Hunting is owned and bred by the Phipps family and trained by Shug McGaughey.

According to assistant trainer Buzz Tenney, Happy Hunting was plagued early in his career by chronic shin problems that prevented him from making it to the races until June of his 4-year-old season.

Happy Hunting finished second or third in his first three starts, but has gone 4 for 5 since adding blinkers.

"He's made it into a pretty nice horse," said Tenney. "We always liked him. It's funny, his mother was a dead come-from-behind sprinter and he likes to be into his races, be a free-running type of horse."

Tenney said that in his first few races, Happy Hunting was "getting beat by some nice horses. But the blinkers have certainly made him a notch better. He's got a lot to learn, but he's getting better."

Tenney believes that Happy Hunting will be sent down to Florida along with Philanthropist, who was scheduled to run in Saturday's Queens County Handicap.

Lion Tamer still with Pletcher

A deal to sell Grade 1 winner Lion Tamer fell through, and plans for the 2004 Cigar Mile winner remain in flux.

According to trainer Todd Pletcher, Lion Tamer will remain in light training at Belmont Park until owner Michael Tabor makes a decision to either race him or retire him. Lion Tamer, who finished third in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, had been pointed to last month's Cigar Mile but was not entered when it seemed like a sale was imminent.

"I'm not sure what his next move is," Pletcher said. "It depends whether there's a stallion deal to be done."

Schosberg has two for Damon Runyon

When trainer Richard Schosberg looks at the pedigrees of Benlayla and Stolen Thunder, he has to double-check that they are New York-breds. But New York-breds they are, and they will both run in Sunday's $75,000 Damon Runyon Stakes for statebred juveniles.

Benlayla is by Aptitude out of the graded-stakes-winning mare Pentatonic, a New York-bred that Schosberg trained and who won more than $600,000. Stolen Thunder is by Thunder Gulch out of the graded-stakes-winning dam Stolen Beauty.

Benlayla is 1 for 3 and is coming off a poor performance in an entry-level allowance race. Stolen Thunder lost his first three starts badly, but won his maiden by 7 3/4 lengths last time out in his first start for Schosberg.

Schosberg believes Benlayla's last is a throw-out because he "had to chase the pace from the inside the whole way, and I don't think he liked that. He's kind of like his mother, a big, long-striding horse who wants to be in the clear. I'm hoping two turns will help him."

Owner Al Fried transferred Stolen Thunder from Steve Asmussen to Schosberg about two weeks before his maiden win. Schosberg put blinkers on Stolen Thunder - equipment he wore in his second start - and he won big.

"Something worked right," Schosberg said. "Let's hope it wasn't a suspect field we were running against."

Kaenel suspended seven days

The stewards have suspended apprentice jockey Kyle Kaenel for seven days for careless riding, though they took no action against his horse, Cassette Case, who won Wednesday's fifth race by six lengths.

Kaenel was deemed careless for allowing his mount to cut off Its True Its True entering the first turn. Carmine Donofrio, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board steward, said it would not have been right to disqualify the horse since he was so much the best and Its True Its True finished fifth.

Kaenel, who is 7 for 42 through Thursday since the inner track opened, appealed the suspension and will continue to ride.

* The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve will have their annual Toys for Tots drive Saturday and Sunday at Aqueduct. Fans are asked to bring a new unwrapped toy to the track.