12/06/2002 12:00AM

Which way is Rock Slide headed?


NEW ORLEANS - There are whole philosophies about the cyclical nature of events. They apply to horse racing in general, and to Rock Slide in particular. A regally bred colt with the bearing of a champion, Rock Slide has fallen as many times as he has risen. Now Rock Slide has cycled back to another stakes attempt in Sunday's Tenacious Handicap at Fair Grounds, where he will try once again to live up to his appearance and breeding.

Rock Slide turns 5 in a few weeks but he has made only 15 starts. A series of physical problems, some serious, some niggling, have kept trainer Neil Howard from bringing continuity to Rock Slide's development.

"He's just one of those horses that we've had a hard time getting him on a steady plane," said Howard, who trains Rock Slide for owners Will Farish, Temple Webber, and James Elkin. "It's hard for him, since he's a real big colt. It's not like a 900-pound filly, where if you get a quarter crack and miss five days of training it's no big deal."

Rock Slide appeared to be headed in the right direction at this time last year. He had impressively won consecutive dirt allowance races in Kentucky and outclassed a Fair Grounds turf field in early December, but in the Dec. 29 Louisiana Handicap, Rock Slide finished a flat fifth, came out of the race with a bone chip that required surgery, and didn't race again until August. He won his first two races this summer and was a good second to the tough handicap horse Crafty Shaw, but then came up with a quarter crack that forced him to miss the Fayette Handicap in October. Back again Nov. 19 at Churchill, Rock Slide finished second to Grade 1 winner Booklet, who ran a mile in 1:34.68.

Howard thinks that might have been Rock Slide's best race and the colt has trained well since coming to Fair Grounds. Rock Slide's connections hope he can cycle higher this time than he ever has before.

Bonapaw may go long for Whirlaway

Bonapaw, winner of the Grade 1 Vosburgh and the top sprinter at Fair Grounds the last two seasons, is getting a month's rest at Six Oaks Farm across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. When he returns to trainer Norman Miller's barn at Fair Grounds, Bonapaw may be pointed to the Whirlaway Handicap, a 1 1/16-mile race on Feb. 9, rather than the sprints to which he is accustomed.

Bonapaw's last two races were Grade 1's, and most recently he finished fifth after setting the pace in the Cigar Mile. Miller said Bonapaw came out of the race in good order, but his owners, the twins Jimmy and Dennis Richard, elected to give Bonapaw a break.

"We're just going to put a blister on him and turn him out, give him a little freshening," Miller said. "He went over there great."

Dollar Bill to return next year

Millionaire Dollar Bill has been turned out for 30 days but will return to regular training at Fair Grounds this winter and prepare for a 5-year-old campaign.

Trainer Dallas Stewart said Dollar Bill has left his barn for a Kentucky farm, where he will have two easy gallops a week in order not to lose all his fitness.

Dollar Bill won only once this year, his comeback in an allowance race at the end of last season's Fair Grounds meet. Dollar Bill ran only in Grade 1's and Grade 2's the rest of the year, and though failing to win he earned almost $500,000. Dollar Bill finished sixth last month in the Clark Handicap after falling far behind the early pacesetters, a recent trend that discouraged Stewart.

"He doesn't train tired, but he runs tired," Stewart said. "He's been dropping so far out of it early."

* Fields are starting to take shape for Louisiana Champions Day, the annual gala for statebred racehorses that will be staged next Saturday. Full fields are expected for both

2-year-old races, while Walk in the Snow, who was second in the Super Derby, is pointing for the Champions Day Classic.

* Jim Tafel's exciting 2-year-old filly Allspice breezed three furlongs in 36.20 seconds here Friday.