08/21/2002 11:00PM

Tic N Tin tries again


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - For a precious few seconds, Ron Brandenburg thought he had won the richest purse of his long training career.

But when the replay of last year's $100,000 Arlington Sprint Handicap was shown on television monitors throughout Arlington Park, Brandenburg had a sinking feeling that his stable star, Tic N Tin, had been beaten in the last jump by Bet on Sunshine.

Unfortunately for Brandenburg, he was right.

A year later, Brandenburg and Tic N Tin will be making the five-hour van ride from their Fairmount Park base to give the six-furlong Arlington Sprint another try. Although three-time winner Bet on Sunshine is not part of the five-horse field, Bonapaw comes into the Sprint as the horse to beat, and Brandenburg fears his task will be just as demanding this year.

"It's awful tough again this year," said Brandenburg. "I just hope my horse runs the same race back as last year. It was a great race for a little ol' Illinois-bred." Brandenburg, 53, has owned and trained Tic N Tin, a speedy

7-year-old by Lac Ouimet, for more than three years, during which time the horse has earned more than $500,000.

While the vast majority of his sizable Fairmount stable is comprised of cheap horses, Tic N Tin has become the biggest earner of Brandenburg's 32-year training career. "Been quite a racehorse," he said. "By far my best."

Tic N Tin will carry 119 pounds, five fewer than topweighted Bonapaw, whose recent victory in the one-mile Hanshin Handicap further demonstrated that the 6-year-old gelding is at the peak of his career.

Last year, Bonapaw earned nearly $400,000 for owners Jimmy and Dennis Richard, and from just five starts this year, the gelding has won three stakes and earned $212,500.

The rest of the Arlington Sprint field consists of Secret Romeo, 119; Sand Ridge, 118; and Halo Cat, 115.

The Arlington Sprint highlights a 10-race Saturday card that starts at 1 p.m. Central.

When it rains, it pours

Beginning Wednesday evening and continuing through Thursday, the Chicago region was pounded by rain, with as much as seven inches reported in some areas.

Arlington did not escape the mess. Early Thursday, commuters who normally use the adjacent Metra train station were not allowed to park their cars there because of severe flooding at the entrance. Standing water was in evidence throughout the spacious Arlington grounds, notably in the infield, where the normally placid lake was spilling over its banks.

The excess water not only led track officials to cancel turf racing for Thursday and Friday, but also to decline entries for the two Saturday turf races listed in the condition book. Turf racing will resume Sunday at the earliest.

In the long run, surely the rain was good for the grass course, especially considering the Breeders' Cup will be run here Oct. 26. Conditions were so dry here for nearly two months (June 16 to Aug. 13) that no turf races had to be transferred to the main track.

* Keeneland racing secretary Ben Huffman was in town on Million weekend, talking with horsemen about the fall meet that begins Oct. 4. As usual, the Keeneland meet is front-loaded with graded stakes, most of which will serve as key preps for the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup here. Condition books for the entire 17-day meet are now available at various tracks, including Arlington.

* Local sportscaster Howard Sudberry of the CBS affiliate in Chicago will host a half-hour handicapping seminar for beginners Saturday at the Starting Gate Theater at 12:15.

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