06/16/2001 11:00PM

Until Sundown shines in Affirmed

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Missing the Triple Crown may have been a blessing for Until Sundown, who won Sunday's $100,000 Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park.

"If you think you have a horse of that calibre and skip it, you can have a full hand at the end of the year," trainer Laura de Seroux said. "I've thought we had a good horse throughout."

The Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap was Until Sundown's graded stakes debut, coming 4 1/2 months after his career debut. The win put him on course for a test against some of the nation's top 3-year-olds in the $500,000 Swaps Stakes on July 15.

Ridden by Gary Stevens, Until Sundown ($4.20) finished a neck in front of 6-1 Top Hit after a stretch-long duel, completing 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.10 before an on-track crowd of 11,936.

Bayou the Moon, who beat Until Sundown in the Alydar Stakes on May 23, finished third, and was followed by Mr. Joe C and Take My Note. Early Flyer was scratched after trainer Ron McAnally reported he was lame after a Saturday gallop.

Stevens had Until Sundown in second behind Take My Note for the first half-mile and took the lead at the end of the backstretch. Top Hit, a stakes winner at Turf Paradise last December, closed along the rail, but could not pass the winner.

"He benefited from his last race," Stevens said. "He ran a game race."

Owned by Sidney Port and San Gabriel Investments, Until Sundown has won 3 of 5 starts and $146,600.

*Expected Program remained unbeaten in three starts following a one-length win in the $78,400 Haggin Stakes.

Ridden by Tyler Baze, Expected Program ($2.60) led by two lengths in early stretch, and was roused in the final sixteenth to hold off Tracemark, who was a threat in mid-stretch. Square Cut Diamond finished third.

Expected Program, who won the Proctor Stakes on May 26, ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.44.

Owned by Carolyn Chapman and Theresa McArthur and trained by Jim Chapman, Expected Program is expected to reappear in the Grade 2 Hollywood Juvenile Championship on July 15.