03/21/2002 1:00AM

Surprise! Macho Uno in allowance


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Several trainers had a surprise awaiting when they picked up Saturday's overnight. They found the $46,000 open allowance they had chosen for their horses also attracted Macho Uno, who returns to action for the first time since finishing fourth in the 2001 Breeders' Cup Classic.

Saturday will be just the ninth start of Macho Uno's career and only the third time he has not raced in stakes. Owned and bred by Frank Stronach's Adena Springs, Macho Uno won a 5 1/2-furlong maiden in his career debut at Saratoga in July 2000. He finished second, beaten a nose by Wicked Will, when returning from a 7 1/2-month layoff under allowance conditions last summer at Saratoga.

"The plan all along was to give him some time off after the Breeders' Cup and keep him apart from Red Bullet, who was penciled in to run in the three-race handicap series here this winter," trainer Joe Orseno said. Orseno kept Macho Uno's exact return date quiet for fear Saturday's race might not fill. "We took our time getting him back, and he's trained excellent. He's gone right along nicely and has been very relaxed since we put the blinkers on. Right now our first major goal is the Metropolitan Handicap [May 27]. I really wanted to get this race into him."

Macho Uno's most noteworthy victory was in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He started four times at 3, winning the Pennsylvania Derby and finishing third in the Ohio Derby before his fourth-place effort in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Macho Uno will face seven rivals in his return, including American Halo, runner-up to Hal's Hope in the Grade 3 Creme Fraiche Handicap, and Hail the Chief, who defeated American Halo and Dancing Guy when making his local debut under similar allowance conditions last month.

Sweet Promises to keep

Sweet Promises, a son of End Sweep owned and bred by the Monarch Stable, was the winner in the season's first 2-year-old race on Thursday. He led throughout to defeat five other juveniles in the three-furlong dash. Shot Gunn Uss Hoga, the only filly in the race, easily finished second. Sweet Promises paid $3 under leading rider Edgar Prado.

"He had a couple of good three-eighths works at Calder under his belt, including one from the gate," trainer Larry Pilotti said about Sweet Promises. "Before that, he got ready on the New Episode Farm in Ocala. They prepare all our 2-year-olds there and do a great job breaking the babies - gate works and everything."

Sweet Promises was only the second winner of the meet for Pilotti, perennially one of the leading trainers on the south Florida circuit.

"We've had no luck at all at this meet except bad luck," said Pilotti. "We've done really well for several years in a row, so a meet like this was bound to happen sooner or later. The biggest problem is that this has been pretty much of a speed track this winter, and we don't have a lot of speed horses in the barn. Hopefully, today's win will turn things around and get us going in the right direction again. Getting back home to Calder next month will help us as well."

Torres back in the winner's circle

Jockey Hector Torres, who has not ridden in the United States since 1993, made a triumphant return by winning with the first mount he accepted, Quon, in Thursday's second race.

Torres began his career on the West Coast in the early 1990's but returned to his native Puerto Rico within two years. He has ridden regularly ever since at El Comm-andante, where he was leading rider in 1998 and 1999.

"I was young when I first came to America and got homesick after a while. But it was always my dream to come back to the U.S.," Torres said after his win. "And this was certainly a good way to start."

Torres has given his book to Bernie Gonzalez, who was left temporarily unemployed after jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr. broke her arm earlier this month.

"I saw Hector ride when I accompanied Rosie to Puerto Rico for the Clasico de Caribe Stakes last fall and he really impressed me," said Gonzalez. "When I knew Rosemary would be out for a while, the first thing I did was get a hold of his number and see if he'd come over here. Once Rosie gets back, likely for the opening of Calder, I'll turn Hector over to another agent."

Gonzalez is not the only agent pushing a new client here these days. Jorge Velasquez has taken over the engagements of Gary Boulanger, who plans to stay in south Florida this summer instead of returning to Woodbine, while Mike Gonzalez has picked up the book of Abel Castellano Jr.

Two Item Limit trains for Distaff

Trainer Steve DiMauro reports that Two Item Limit continues to train well for her 2002 debut, scheduled for March 30 in Aqueduct's Distaff Handicap.

"She'll work once more at Calder, then ship to New York on the 27th," said DiMauro. "I do not have a rider lined up for the race just yet."

Two Item Limit has not started since closing out her outstanding 3-year-old campaign by finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Distaff under Alex Solis.