06/26/2004 12:00AM

Rare win for Runaway Victor

Runaway Victor (3), winless for two seasons and running for a $4,000 tag last winter, upsets Saturday's Cardinal Handicap, returning $60.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Runaway Victor, a horse with no wins in two calendar years and a bottom-level claimer late last winter, pulled a mighty upset in his 72nd career start, winning Saturday's , the top race of the Prairie State Festival at Arlington Park.

The $84,650 Cardinal was supposed to belong to Mystery Giver, the top-rated Illinois-bred and a Grade 2 winner this spring. But Mystery Giver tugged hard on the backstretch and backed up in the stretch, as Runaway Victor surged past Colorful Tour, the resolute pacesetter, in the final furlong.

An 8-year-old owned by Jim Kelly and trained by Doug Matthews, Runaway Victor ($60) made a name for himself on the Illinois circuit by not winning: In 71 starts before Saturday, Runaway Victor had finished first six times and second 21 times.

"He picked a good day not to run second," said Matthews, who called the victory the best of his training career. Matthews is a former assistant to Noel Hickey, the trainer of Colorful Tour.

Last September, Runaway Victor was claimed from Matthews and the horse's breeder, BJB Stables, for $25,000. Three losses later, Runaway Victor showed up in a $4,000 claimer, and Matthews took him back.

"We claimed him, turned him out - and this is the best he's ever done," Matthews said. "He's 8 years old, but this is the best he's ever looked in his life. You try to be realistic. You maybe hope to be fourth or fifth. But he's 8 years old, and maybe this is his last shot."

Colorful Tour set a slow pace, a half-mile in 49.49 seconds, and Runaway Victor was just behind him. Mystery Giver raced on the outside and was pulling hard on the backstretch.

"He used himself too much," said jockey Carlos Marquez.

Mystery Giver was empty when Marquez asked him to run, and wound up sixth. But Runaway Victor kept going. He ran 1 1/16 miles on turf in 1:44.46.

White Oak: Silver Bid prevails

Silver Bid cemented his spot atop the Illinois-bred sprint division with a three-quarter-length victory in the $83,650 .

Getting a perfect trip under Rene Douglas, who had gone winless in Saturday's first eight races, Silver Bid pressed early leader Magic Doe through an opening quarter-mile in a soft 22.41, and a half in 44.96. Douglas had plenty of horse at the stretch call, and rode confidently, but Manitowish plugged along and made the favorite work in the final furlong. Manitowish, a 7-1 shot, finished a half-length in front of Wiggins,

followed by Shandy, Magic Doe, San Pedro, Bold Caller, and Johnathan.

Silver Bid, a son of Buckbean bred and owned by Eugene Young and Terry Renfrow, has finished first or second in 23 of 36 lifetime starts. At Arlington, he has won 5 of 10, and at six furlongs, he has gone 10 for 25.

"I guess he's kind of a trainer's dream," trainer Joel Berndt said earlier this week. "He goes out and gives 110 percent every time."

Silver Bid, who paid $4, was timed in 1:09.70.

Springfield: Fort Prado dusts rivals

Fort Prado, unraced since March 7, blew open the coming off the turn and went on to a 4 1/2-length victory over Jaguar Friend.

A lengthy stewards investigation into two claims of foul held up the result, but in the end Fort Prado's definitive victory stood.

Fort Prado had not raced since he beat open maidens at the end of the Fair Grounds meet, but trainer Chris Block, working for the Team Block ownership partnership, had him ready. Under Jesse Campbell, Fort Prado raced well behind a swift early pace, as Medicine Eyes, Just See James, and Out for a Spin battled through a half-mile in 44.99 seconds. The pace horses were finished in the stretch, and Campbell found a hole for Fort Prado, and the colt went on to an easy victory, running a mile in 1:36.31.

Jaguar Friend ran late to beat out Prairie King for second, with favored Persuaggle finishing fifth. Fort Prado paid $28.20 to win.

Purple Violet: Philly shippers one-two

Trainer Edward Coletti did it again. In March, Coletti saddled the one-two finishers, Slewville and Wish for Gold, in the Lady Hallie Stakes at Hawthorne. The $85,850 produced the same result, with Slewville winning by three-quarters of a length over Ms. Lydonia, who was disqualified to fourth, giving Wish for Gold the place spot and Barrel Racer third.

The amazing thing is that Coletti trains these horses at Philadelphia Park. Both of them shipped here this week by van - Wish for Gold is staying with trainer Tom Tomillo - and both ran as well as they had at Hawthorne. Slewville, with Hiram Rivera up, stalked in third as Proven Cat and Western Mindy dueled on an exceptionally fast pace, 22.53 seconds for an opening quarter-mile, and 44.58 for the half. The two early leaders dropped out in the stretch, and Slewville, who took the lead, also grew weary. But Ms. Lydonia, who was closing at the top of the stretch, weaved in and out, and her erratic run allowed Slewville to hang on.

The Everest Stable of Jeffrey Nielsen bred and owns Slewville and Wish for Gold, who raced as an entry and paid $5.40 to win and $4.80 to place. Slewville, a daughter of Petionville, was timed in 1:37.43 for a mile on dirt.

Lincoln Heritage: Lighthouse Lil rallies

Carlos Marquez Jr. loves to ride from behind. Put him on a stretch-running turf horse, and he is in his element. And this is why Marquez and the filly Lighthouse Lil get along so well. Eighth of 10 a quarter-mile from the finish, Marquez and Lighthouse Lil rolled up on the outside and won the $85,850 by a neck. I Can Fan Fan, the early leader, finished a game second, and Samantha B. was third.

Lighthouse Lil, who once ran for a $10,000 claiming price, gave trainer Chris Block two stakes wins on the Prairie State Festival. She paid $5.80 to win, running 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:44.39.

Isaac Murphy: Dharma Girl surprises

Dharma Girl posted a 17-1 upset in the $85,750 , coming from just off the pace to beat Jaguar City by a length.

Owned and bred by Ben Barnow, and trained by Richard Hazelton, Dharma Girl paid $36.20 to win, and was timed in 1:10.28 for six furlongs. Jaguar City, the early leader, was clearly second over Cashmere Miss. The favored Synco Peach made a run coming off the turn, but flattened out and finished eighth.