01/29/2003 12:00AM

Year starts for two hot items

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - This is the time of year when a first-level allowance race for 3-year-olds can come up tougher than a graded stakes. A case in point may be Friday's sixth race at Gulfstream Park, which will provide the 2003 debuts of such exciting prospects as Ten Cents a Shine and Senor Swinger and serves as a potential prep for the Grade 1 Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 15.

While the 3-year-olds may attract the most attention, Friday's program also offers three other allowance races, including a $42,000 optional claimer that could earn some of those in the eight-horse field a starting berth in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap on Feb. 22.

Ten Cents a Shine started only twice as a 2-year-old but left a lasting impression when he rallied from far back to win a seven-furlong allowance dash and finish second in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Handicap. A son of Devil His Due, Ten Cents a Shine has been training well since arriving at Gulfstream in December.

"He's doing super, and I think this is a horse that's got a bright future," said his trainer, Ken McPeek. "But he's still got a lot to learn. I think this should be a good first test for the horse, and it will be interesting to see what happens. I'm not sure whether I'll run him back in the Fountain of Youth off this race. I'll have to see how this one goes first."

Senor Swinger raced just once at 2, and also made a very favorable first impression when he drew off to a 6 1/2-length victory at 1 1/16 miles against maiden special weight competition at Hawthorne. Senor Swinger's trainer, Mickey Goldfine, had hoped to launch the colt's 3-year-old campaign two weeks earlier, but he had to postpone the return after the colt missed a day of training the week of the race.

"He has the potential to be a good one, and we're looking forward to seeing how he does down here this winter," said Goldfine.

While Ten Cents a Shine and Senor Swinger begin their 3-year-old campaigns on Friday, several of their rivals have already had the benefit of a race under their belt this winter.

Awesome Time and Hot Hand finished second and third behind the undefeated Indy Dancer under similar allowance conditions on Jan. 4, both proving no match for the winner's closing surge. Roaring Fever, who is already graded stakes placed, finished a tiring fifth behind Indy Dancer and must prove he can win around two turns.

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