09/06/2001 11:00PM

John Paul Too back a victor

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ELMONT, N.Y. - After taking the summer off to recover from a respiratory infection, John Paul Too made a successful return to the races Friday, taking the $81,175 General Douglas MacArthur Handicap for New York breds by 1 1/4 lengths before an opening-day crowd of 4,779 at Belmont Park.

No Bad Habits outfinished Impeachthepro by a head for second. Mount Intrepid, Duplicitous, and Pure Harmony completed the order of finish. Say Florida Sandy, the morning-line favorite, scratched, presumably to run in Friday night's Paterson Handicap at The Meadowlands.

It was the first stakes win and sixth career triumph in 15 career starts for John Paul Too, a 4-year-old son of Sea Hero trained by John Kimmel. John Paul Too had not been out since finishing second in the Kingston Handicap on turf May 20.

After breaking on top, John Paul Too settled into fourth down the backside while Pure Harmony and Impeachthepro dueled early. Around the turn, Pure Harmony faded and No Bad Habits picked up the chase. When Impeach-thepro floated No Bad Habits wide turning for home, Migliore guided John Paul Too through a large opening along the inside. John Paul Too covered the seven furlongs in 1:23.87 and returned $4.60 to win as the 6-5 choice.

The opening-day crowd was down slightly from the 4,882 who attended last fall's opener. On-track handle was $1,090,824, down from $1,188,333 last fall. Total handle dipped to $8,587,l22 compared with last fall's opening figure of $9,907,577.