05/05/2003 11:00PM

A blending of two class levels

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Some horseplayers might turn up their noses at races like the one that highlights the Thursday card at Churchill Downs - but then those same people might not like change in any form.

The conditions governing the Thursday feature have become familiar at Churchill only since Doug Bredar became racing secretary here last spring. Carrying the cumbersome title of "allowance/optional-claiming," such races attempt to bring together full and well-matched fields by combining classifications that formerly were mutually exclusive. Before being hired by Churchill, Bredar worked as an assistant racing secretary in Southern California, where allowance/optional-claiming races long have been carded with regularity.

If nothing else, such races often become good betting events, and the Thursday feature is a prime example. The melded conditions of third-level allowances and $62,500 claiming have brought together an interesting group, with Conserve, a multiple stakes winner who long ago became ineligible for the prevailing allowance conditions, joining the cast because his connections exercised the "option" of entering him with a $62,500 claiming tag.

An overflow field was entered in the ninth of 10 races, which is scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the turf. All but Conserve and two other horses, Jadada and Freon Flier, are eligible under the allowance conditions. Like Conserve, those other two horses are former stakes winners who may still have enough class and ability to win, even though their recent outings suggest they are not in peak form.

If none of these so-called claimers is able to rediscover his sometimes glorious past, then this race could fall any number of ways.

M B Sea has developed into a versatile and hard-trying veteran for Dale Romans, who has tied for the last three spring training titles at Churchill.

Entitlement, trained by John Hennig, has shown occasional glimpses of ability and draws what figures to be a favorable starting position (post 1). Likewise, Majestic Thief (post 2) also should be able to secure a decent spot before launching his run.

Peekskill, trained by Tony Reinstedler, is entered for the main track only and, along with M B Sea, would become one of the deserving favorites if the recent pattern of rain continued into Thursday and this race has to be transferred to the main track.

First post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern. Fridays are the only days at the spring meet with a twilight first post of 2:45.