11/07/2003 12:00AM

Stallion Series bonus chase begins

NYRA/Adam Coglianese
Pa Pa Da, here winning his maiden race on the Belmont turf, will take on eight opponents in the Great White Way, including West Virginia.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Pa Pa Da, coming off a runner-up finish in the Sleepy Hollow on New York Showcase Day, and West Virginia, a runaway winner of a maiden race, are the headline names in Sunday's $125,000 Great White Way at Aqueduct.

The Great White Way, a six-furlong dirt race for 2-year-old males, is one of four stakes on Sunday that are for the progeny of New York stallions and falls under the banner of the New York Stallion Series. The other races are the $125,000 Fifth Avenue for 2-year-old fillies, the $100,000 Cormorant for male turf runners, and the $100,000 Perfect Arc for female grass runners.

The Great White Way, which drew a field of nine, is linked to a bonus that involves two other Stallion Series races for 3-year-olds males that will be run next year: the $150,0000 Times Square at Aqueduct on April 25 and the $250,000 Cab Calloway at Belmont Park in June. If a horse wins all three races, he will earn his owner a $100,000 bonus.

Pa Pa Da, who is trained by David Donk, is by Incurable Optimist, who was a New York stallion when Pa Pa Da was conceived. Incurable Optimist now stands in Argentina. Donk trained Incurable Optimist, who was a graded stakes winner on the turf as a 2-year-old. He was retired after his first season of racing because of an injury.

Donk said he doesn't know if Pa Pa Da, who is owned by John and Theresa Behrendt, is better on the grass or dirt. The gelding won a maiden turf race at Belmont Park in September and was second in both his dirt starts, including the Sleepy Hollow, where he was beaten 3 1/2 lengths by Friends Lake at Belmont on Oct. 18. Pa Pa Da's career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 92 was earned in the one-mile Sleepy Hollow.

"Incurable Optimist was a serious, serious horse on the grass," Donk said. "I don't know if Pa Pa Da is better on the grass. I think all his races have been good, and he was beaten by a very good horse in the Sleepy Hollow. I'm intrigued he has run so well on the dirt, and I'm going to pursue it as far as I can. I don't foresee a problem backing him up to six furlongs on Sunday."

John Velazquez will ride Pa Pa Da, who drew post 9 and has tactical speed.

Pa Pa Da will be coupled in the wagering with Kiss an Optimist, also a son of Incurable Optimist. Kiss an Optimist finished third in the World Appeal on the grass at the Meadowlands in his last start on Oct. 10.

"He's not as a good as Pa Pa Da - we're looking to pick up a piece of it with Kiss an Optimist," Donk said.

Todd Pletcher, West Virginia's trainer, would prefer if the Great White Way were a longer race. In his second start, West Virginia won an off-the-turf maiden race at a mile on New York Showcase Day by 11 1/2 lengths and earned a Beyer Figure of 85. West Virginia, who is owned by Don and Mary Zuckerman, is a son of Tomorrows Cat, the leading freshman sire in New York last year.

"I wish this was a mile, because we think he will be better stretching out," Pletcher said.

Jerry Bailey, closing in on a single-season record for stakes wins, will ride West Virginia from post 4.

Another son of Incurable Optimist in the Great White Way is Theconfidenceman, who finished seventh as the favorite in the Bertram F. Bongard in the mud.

First-time starter Kitty Connection was scratched from a maiden race by trainer Tom Skiffington on Tuesday to run in the Great White Way. Kitty Connection, who is by Tomorrows Cat, is a half-brother to the stakes-placed Grab Bag, a winner of 5 of 9 career starts.

Chowder's First, Shhh Please, Eyeofthehunter, and Belle's Beast complete the field.