08/30/2002 12:00AM

Not half bad for most 10-year-olds


CHICAGO - Bet on Sunshine finished third in a Thursday allowance race at Arlington, a decent enough performance for a typical horse, but another sign that at age 10 Bet on Sunshine no longer is the dominant sprinter he used to be.

Facing a stakes-quality field on a racetrack where he had won 4 of 5 starts, Bet on Sunshine raced closer to the pace than he normally does. Turning for home he dug in and tried to force his way past the two horses ahead of him, but though his mind was willing his body was not, and he simply was outrun by about a length.

Even in defeat, Bet on Sunshine showed what a remarkable specimen he is. The trip wasn't ideal for his running style - jockey Rene Douglas told trainer Paul McGee that the gelding wasn't comfortable trapped along the inside - and the race went in a fast time, 1:16.19 for 6 1/2 furlongs. There may not be another 10-year-old in the country who could match the performance, yet Bet on Sunshine has set the bar so high - twice he has finished third in the Breeders' Cup Sprint - that the result came as something of a disappointment.

"He ran a game race," McGee said, "but I don't know how much longer we'll go on with him. I think it's fair to say he's lost a step this year."

McGee said he planned to talk with owner David Holloway about Bet on Sunshine's future. "He's ready to do whatever's best for the horse," McGee said.

One more avenue may remain. At the end of his 2001 campaign, Bet on Sunshine ran in his first two-turn race and crushed a Churchill allowance field that included subsequent Grade 2 winner Parade Leader. McGee has toyed with the idea of stretching out Bet on Sunshine again, though he has yet to try it this season.

Another ancient sprinter won Thursday's race, Chindi, nearly white at age 8 but still capable of producing a powerful stretch run. A deep closer who usually needs a fast pace, Chindi won Thursday despite laying much closer to the lead than usual because of a tepid pace.

"He was doing so good, but there was no pace," trainer Steve Hobby said. "In the Form you'll see he won by a nose, but in my opinion Chindi ran a hell of a race."

Hobby said Chindi's major upcoming goal is the Ack Ack at Churchill.

'Awesome' Fifty Stars coming back

Fifty Stars hasn't raced since finishing far back in the 2001 Kentucky Derby, but trainer Steve Asmussen is glowing about the progress of the colt's comeback.

"Fifty Stars is awesome," Asmussen said. "Right now, I'm very excited about his progress."

Though he's not yet ready to run, Fifty Stars has come along swiftly since coming to Asmussen's Churchill string from the Asmussen family's El Primero Training Center near Laredo, Texas. Fifty Stars has worked several times at regular intervals in Kentucky while showing no ill effects from the injuries that have sidelined him for so long.

Fifty Stars, the 2001 Louisiana Derby winner, chipped a bone in the Kentucky Derby and broke a splint bone early this spring just as Asmussen had trained him up to a comeback race.

Asmussen said Fifty Stars could return to action at Churchill or Arlington. "We've got till the end of October at Arlington, and he should be ready by then," he said.

Asmussen also said Histoire Sainte, a tough-luck loser of an overnight turf stakes during Arlington Million week, is being pointed to the $100,000 Estrapade Handicap on Oct. 25. Histoire Sainte breezed four furlongs on turf here Wednesday. "We're going to continue to space her races out," said Asmussen.

His and her allowances

A pair of second-level allowance races - one for males on turf, the other for fillies on dirt - highlight Sunday's program.

The 3-year-olds Leslie and Saratoga Cat are the horses to watch in the filly race, as both drop out of higher-class races. Saratoga Cat finished fourth in her last start, the Grade 3 Singapore Plate, while Leslie was second in an overnight handicap to Miss Pickums, an older filly who races Monday in the Arlington Matron.

Leslie's chances last time might have been hurt when she required last-minute shoe repair from a blacksmith and was held up in the paddock while her opponents warmed up on the track.

* With Ability, who may be the second choice in Monday's Grade 3 Arlington Matron, was scheduled to van here from Saratoga on Friday night. Badly beaten last out in the Personal Ensign, With Ability won the Sixty Sails at Sportsman's Park this spring. Your Out, the likely favorite, already has arrived here from trainer Graham Motion's Delaware Park base.