08/20/2002 11:00PM

Like turf sprints? They're back

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - From the beginning of the Arlington Park meet in June through the International Festival of Racing, one type of race is notably absent from the daily fare: turf sprints.

But with the Festival over, Arlington racing secretary David Bailey now can give himself a little extra leeway in regard to using the grass course. The first turf sprint of the season, a $45,000 allowance for fillies and mares, highlights the Friday card, with a twilight first post of 3 p.m.

Bailey said six grass sprints, all at five furlongs, will be run here before the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup.

"That's the same number we've had the last three or four years here," Bailey said.

Before the Million, the grass is preserved partly by not carding turf sprints, which tend to be rougher on the course than routes are because of the fast-paced action.

Two overnight stakes, the Lazer Show and Taylor's Special, will be run later in the meet. The other turf sprints will be separate $50,000 claimers for males and females, and separate allowance races for males and females.

The conditions of the Friday feature, which goes as the eighth of 10 races, appear to suit Color Me Special and Sweet and Firm best.

Color Me Special, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, was good enough to win a high-end claiming sprint "down the hill" at Santa Anita on April 11, the day Hollendorfer claimed her. Sweet and Firm, trained by Tom Amoss, has been away for over three months, since defeating a solid group of allowance fillies in a Churchill Downs turf sprint on May 11.

Twin Set, another recent arrival from Southern California, is one more contender in a field of seven.

In the race following the feature, a $40,000 claiming race, Deer Lake, a sharp winner of a Gulfstream allowance in March, returns from a five-month layoff as the likely favorite.

Bonapaw heads short field

Bonapaw, winner of the one-mile Hanshin Handicap in his last start, is scheduled to carry highweight of 124 pounds Saturday when he turns back to six furlongs in the $100,000 Arlington Sprint Handicap.

Bonapaw, a noted sprint specialist, was asked to negotiate a mile in his last start, the July 20 Hanshin. He did so sensationally, drawing off to a sizable lead before losing it, then drawing off again to win by 2 1/4 lengths.

Bonapaw, a winner of nearly $800,000 from 32 starts, will spot his prospective rivals from five to nine pounds in the Arlington Sprint. Regular rider Gerard Melancon is scheduled to return from Louisiana to ride him again.

Only three other starters are expected to face Bonapaw: Tic N Tin, 119; Sand Ridge, 118; and Halo Cat, 115.

Bet on Sunshine, who has won or dead-heated for win in the last three runnings of the Sprint, was not nominated to the race. Trainer Paul McGee is hoping to run the 10-year-old gelding in an allowance race here next week.

Cup seats being installed

Arlington began taking on a different look this week, as workmen began a project that will add 35,000 temporary seats for the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup. On Wednesday morning, after two days of work, the first set of temporary bleachers already were taking shape.

Arlington president Steve Sexton has said that virtually all temporary seating will probably be in place two weeks before the Breeders' Cup. One of the most important days of preparation will come Sept. 29, when the NBC broadcast team will be here to televise several BC preps.

Douglas on top

Rene Douglas, who continues to dominate the Arlington jockey standings, hit two milestones for the meet last weekend: Douglas went past the $3 million mark in purse earnings for the meet on Saturday, and by riding five winners Sunday, he hit the 100-win mark for the meeting.

Into Wednesday, Elvis Trujillo was the closest to Douglas with 57 wins, with Chris Emigh next in line with 35 wins. To break the record, Douglas will have to win at an even better clip during the final 52 programs of a 107-day meet that ends Oct. 27. Shane Sellers set the all-time Arlington record by winning 219 races during a 132-day meet in 1991.

"It gives me something to shoot for," said Douglas. "It's not impossible, so I won't rule it out yet."

The trainer standings are much closer, with Wayne Catalano having edged away to a 30-27 lead over Jerry Hollendorfer.

* There's Zealous, six-length winner of the Cigar Stakes on the Arlington Million undercard, could make his next start in the $400,000 Kentucky Cup Classic, said his trainer, McGee. The Kentucky Cup series runs Sept. 14 at Turfway Park.

* Trainer Mike Stidham sent out an impressive maiden winner Wednesday: Caucus, a 2-year-old General Meeting filly, who sped a mile in 1:37.18 in the fourth race. The runner-up, Belle of Perintown, ran well to finish five lengths behind. The third-place finisher, In Case of Wind, was another 20 1/2 lengths back.

* The first Quarter Horse race of the meet will be held Sunday, the Windy City Dash, which usually offers a purse of about $15,000. A field of 10 to 12 starters is expected.