12/01/2005 1:00AM

Cherokee's Boy class of Jennings

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Cherokee's Boy wasn't quite up to the challenge of shortening up to six furlongs six days after setting a track record going 1 1/8 miles. Does he stand a better chance of stretching out from seven to nine furlongs a week after matching the best Beyer Speed Figure of his career?

The 5-year-old Cherokee's Boy, closing in on $1 million in earnings, comes back on short rest while spotting five seemingly outclassed rivals between eight and 11 pounds in Saturday's $75,000 Jennings Handicap for Maryland-breds at Laurel Park.

The highweight at 123 pounds under regular rider Travis Dunkelberger, Cherokee's Boy comes into the Jennings off an easy victory in an allowance race at Charles Town a week ago in which he earned a 108 Beyer.

That equals the figure Cherokee's Boy was awarded when he broke the Charles Town track record for 1 1/8 miles on Oct. 15. Six days later, he settled for second while cutting back in distance to six furlongs for the Maryland Million Sprint.

A winner of 6 of 11 starts this season and 15 of 39 lifetime, Cherokee's Boy comes into the Jennings with a bankroll of $924,836. The winner's share of $45,000 would still leave him $30,164 shy of the $1 million milestone.

All but one of the five horses that Cherokee's Boy will face in the Jennings have been primarily racing in allowance and optional claiming events this season. The exception is the 3-year-old Gold Casing, who improved his Beyer Figure for the third time in a row while extending his winning streak to three with a four-length triumph in the nine-furlong Northern Dancer on Nov. 12. Much like Cherokee's Boy, Gold Casing performs best as a front-runner.

George's Gain, who scored at 18-1 going a mile on Nov. 5, also comes out of a wire-to-wire victory. He did show the ability to rate in a win over a sloppy surface at Colonial Downs in July.

The other three runners, including the Linda Albert-trained entry of Off the Glass and Water Cannon, are a combined 0 for 23 this season.