03/10/2004 12:00AM

Track records part of big Bang theory

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SUNLAND PARK, N.M. - Bang turned in the top performance of this meet in last Saturday's $50,000 Bill Thomas Memorial Handicap, winning by seven lengths, shattering the track record for 6 1/2 furlongs, and earning a 103 Beyer Speed Figure. Not bad for a horse who started this season off in a $25,000 claiming race.

Bang has won four straight races here at Sunland and has established himself as the top sprinter in the region. His success can be attributed to the patience his trainer, Eric Kruljac, showed last season when Bang was 3.

As a 2-year-old in 2002, Bang won two races and placed in two stakes in northern California. He won a $40,000 claiming race at Hollywood Park at 3 before running poorly at Bay Meadows on June 4. The decision to give Bang an extended rest was made following that race.

"He was a 3-year-old with some minor problems, and we thought if we gave him a break now, we would have a nice 4-year-old," owner William Hedrick said after Saturday's race.

Kruljac, who makes his home in Phoenix but maintains a stable in California as well as at Turf Paradise, had Bang prepared for his return to the races in November when he sent his assistant, Jackie Payton, to Sunland with a string of horses. As it turned out, Sunland needed one more horse to fill a $25,000 claimer opening weekend, so Payton called Kruljac to see about running Bang. Kruljac agreed, and Bang's wining streak was was under way.

After posting an allowance win in his next start, Bang was entered in the mixed-breed Budweiser Handicap at 1,000 yards on Feb. 21. He not only blew away his Quarter Horse rivals but set a track record of 51.47 seconds for the distance.

In Saturday's Bill Thomas, with jockey Tony Noguez standing up in the saddle down the stretch, Bang was timed in 1:14.29, lowering the previous standard by 0.48 seconds.

It is uncertain where Bang will start next, but next month's Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn Park is under consideration.