07/17/2002 12:00AM

For peripatetic Bonapaw, last mile could be hardest


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Bonapaw has traveled from Dubai to Des Moines this year, but his longest trip may come Saturday, when he will be asked to stretch his speed one mile in the $100,000 Hanshin Cup.

Bonapaw, the pride of New Orleans, has lost two races in a row for the first time since last summer. A trip to Dubai in late March produced a sixth-place finish in the Dubai Golden Shaheen, and Bonapaw most recently was fourth in the July 4 Iowa Sprint Handicap at Prairie Meadows.

Now, Bonapaw will race beyond a sprint distance for the first time since Aug. 19, 2000, when he was second in the Evangeline Mile. He will do so with only a couple weeks worth of stamina training, according to Norman Miller, who has taken over Bonapaw's training for owners Jim and Dennis Richard, identical twins from New Orleans who follow their horse wherever he goes.

Tucker Alonzo, Bonapaw's regular trainer, doesn't travel when Bonapaw leaves home for more than a few days. Al Stall trained Bonapaw at Saratoga last summer, and Miller, Bonapaw's groom at Fair Grounds, accompanied Bonapaw to Dubai and to Iowa.

Bonapaw, Miller said, was to have gotten five months' rest after his trip to the Middle East. But when the Richard twins visited Bonapaw at the farm where he was boarded a couple of months ago, Bonapaw looked so good that they put him back in training.

"He didn't lose anything from Dubai, not a thing," Miller said.

Two weeks before the Iowa Sprint, Miller loaded Bonapaw onto a van and drove from the Folsom Training Center in Louisiana to Des Moines. There, Bonapaw got caught in a hot speed duel in the Iowa Sprint and was beaten 2 1/2 lengths. A couple of days later, it was on to Arlington.

"I'll go wherever the twins tell me to," said Miller, who serves as Bonapaw's regular exercise rider.

Bonapaw puts a lot into his training - he worked five furlongs in 56.60 seconds a week before the Iowa Sprint - and is a tough horse to slow down in the morning. Miller has not worked him since coming here, but Bonapaw goes so strongly in his daily training that he recently was timed in about 49 seconds for the final half-mile of a regular gallop.

"He's so strong, I feel like I'm not even going anywhere with him," Miller said.

Gerard Melancon, Bonapaw's rider in his last 16 starts, will be in to ride Saturday. Melancon also is booked to ride Seainsky on Sunday in the American Derby.

Horse for course

Of the nine horses expected for the Hanshin, none may be happier about being here than Discreet Hero. Since he won the Grade 3 Round Table on July 28 of last year, his most recent start here, Discreet Hero has lost six times in a row, his best finish being a third-place finish March 9 in a listed stakes at Santa Anita.

Discreet Hero was confirmed as a Hanshin starter Wednesday by trainer Al Stall. Malabar Gold, like Discreet Hero owned by B. Wayne Hughes, also had been considered for the Hanshin.

"It may be one of those cases of a horse for a course," Stall said. "He's never run so well as he's run up there."

Because Discreet Hero hasn't raced in more than four months, Stall would have preferred to have a prep for the Hanshin. But Discreet Hero wasn't quite ready for the Dr. Fager Handicap three weeks ago, and he goes into a tough spot off solid works.

"He's doing well and he can take the training, so he should be okay," Stall said.

Big work for Mystery Giver

Mystery Giver had his major work Wednesday for the July 27 Arlington Handicap, breezing six furlongs on turf in 1:15.40 with Rene Douglas up. Trainer Chris Block caught Mystery Giver galloping out seven furlongs in 1:28, a good finish to a very strong breeze.

Mystery Giver's older sister Ioya Two worked the same distance in 1:15 Wednesday. Ioya Two might run the same day as Mystery Giver in the Modesty Handicap, which she won last year.

Ioya Two and Mystery Giver were the only two grass workers at six furlongs, but their breezes were much faster in comparison to the other four turf works.

The Illinois-bred Mystery Giver, whose biggest win came in the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup last winter, broke off alertly to begin his work and was never asked for much by Douglas.

"I thought he finished up just as strong as he went off," Block said.

A long, lean horse, Mystery Giver does not carry much weight, but Block thinks he actually weighs more now than when he won the Cardinal Handicap last month, his first start after a layoff.

"He's doing really well right now," said Block.