10/13/2002 11:00PM

Macho Uno looks like old self in workout


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Just 12 days before the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships - with only a handful of Breeders' Cup hopefuls having arrived here - there was a flurry of activity Monday morning at Arlington, where Macho Uno, Bonapaw, and Two Item Limit had significant and impressive workouts.

Monday could turn out to be a pivotal day for Macho Uno, winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile two years ago at Churchill Downs. He finished last here in the Washington Park Handicap, his prep for the Classic, a race so poor that it concerned even the even the staunchest supporters in his camp.

Trainer Joe Orseno said Macho Uno didn't have to win the Washington Park to go to the Breeders' Cup, but his connections obviously wanted something more than the dull performance they got. Still, Orseno didn't push Macho Uno after the Washington Park, not until Monday, when Macho Uno drilled a mile in 1:40.

This morning, Orseno had a Wayne Catalano-trained horse break into a strong gallop about 10 lengths in front of Macho Uno just as Macho Uno approached the one-mile marker on Arlington's main track. With exercise rider Tim McCanick aboard, Macho Uno was to track his work partner in an open gallop for a half-mile, then launch into the meat of his exercise at the half-mile pole, during which he would pass his workmate.

"I had given so many different instructions that I was thinking, what are the chances of absolutely everything going right?" Orseno said. "But everything did.

"He caught the other horse on the turn, and I had Tim on the walkie-talkie and told him to see if he could open up on that horse. If he hadn't left that other horse, I think that might have been it. But Tim asked him, and just like that he had 10 lengths on him."

Macho Uno galloped out with much more energy than he had in a tepid work before the Washington Park, and came off the track bouncing. Back at the barn he cooled out nicely, scoped clean, and left Orseno beaming and relaxed.

"I wouldn't want to be going in the race if I didn't think I had a chance. But I think this horse can win. Look at him," Orseno said, pointing to where Macho Uno was being bathed. "He's over there trying to bite the groom. He feels great."

Bonapaw blazes

Macho Uno worked shortly after the second renovation break at 9 a.m., while Bonapaw turned in his final work for the Breeders' Cup Sprint right after the first break. With jockey Ray Sibille up, Bonapaw breezed five furlongs in 57.80 seconds, a shockingly fast work, but typical for Bonapaw. Of 38 five-furlong breezes Monday, Bonapaw's was the fastest by almost 2 1/2 seconds.

"He worked really well, just like he always does," said trainer Norman Miller, who also serves as Bonapaw's exercise rider, groom, hotwalker, and masseur. "That's how he does things. It's been working, and we're not going to change anything now."

Bonapaw galloped out six furlongs in 1:11.40 seconds, but only because Sibille geared him down just past the finish line. "Usually he'll gallop out in 1:09," Miller said. "He was barely even blowing when he came back, just a little more than when he gallops."

Two Item Limit also strong

Third in the Distaff last year, Two Item Limit appears to be coming into this year's race in equally strong fashion: Her six-furlong breeze in 1:12.80 was outstanding. Rene Douglas, booked to ride Two Item Limit in the Breeders' Cup, worked her Monday.

Two Item Limit hasn't been quite right this year, and after making progress she went off form again in August. Trainer Steve DiMauro sent her to Arlington in September, gave her an easy win in an Illinois-bred race, and hoped a change of venue and cooler weather would perk her up. Right now, the strategy is working.

Zavata back in action

Sunday, the prospective Juvenile starter Zavata breezed a half-mile in 50.40 seconds, the colt's first timed workout since he suffered a minor ankle injury that kept him out of the Champagne Stakes.

Zavata's 2-year-old stablemate Whywhywhy had a faster five-furlong work here Saturday, though trainer Patrick Biancone said "both horses worked very well. Zavata and Whywhywhy both seem to like this beautiful weather here in Chicago."

Biancone plans to breeze both colts again later this week.

- The nominal feature on a nine-race Wednesday program is a first-level allowance for Illinois-breds at about 1 1/8 miles on turf. Ahmagooden exits a close fourth-place finish against open allowance horses, but may not be as well suited to the nine-furlong trip as Crusader Jo, a nose loser at this class level in his last start