04/08/2006 12:00AM

Dropper suspect, but where to turn?


STICKNEY, Ill. - What odds would be fair on a horse dropping in class from a decent Grade 2 stakes at Gulfstream Park into a modest nonwinners-of-two allowance race at Hawthorne?

The question arises in the featured seventh race here Tuesday at the National Jockey Club meet, and the horse in question is Johns Place, who finished ninth last month in the Grade 2 Shirley Jones Breeders' Cup Handicap, and who will be heavily favored in Tuesday's seventh.

Trained by Becky Maker for a Dare to Dream Stable partnership, Johns Place has won 4 of 8 starts, but qualifies for the second allowance condition because two of her victories came when Johns Place raced for a $50,000 claiming price. And that itself makes one wonder how short a price to accept if making a straight wager in this spot. Johns Place may come out of a graded stakes, but the fact that her connections were several times willing to lose her for $50,000 means she is not invincible.

Just very tough. Johns Place won an entry-level turf-sprint allowance on Feb. 10 at Gulfstream, but it is her performance last summer in the $100,000 Saylorville Stakes, a fine second to the graded-stakes class Injustice, that makes Johns Place so difficult to get past in the Tuesday feature. That and the fact there are no obvious alternatives.

Lingo has a pair of recent seconds racing at this class level over the Turfway Park's Polytrack, but how much class does she have? Lingo has put together a career record of 7-7-3 from 29 starts, yet her earnings total less than $90,000. Love Divine won an entry-level allowance last out, but only by a nose. In fact, the horse with the best shot at an upset might be Isle See You Later, who hasn't raced since July, but goes for a good layoff barn and won her career debut, proving that she can fire fresh.

Two strong workouts

Nkosi Reigns, who could make his next start April 22 in the National Jockey Club Handicap, worked a bullet five furlongs Saturday morning. Nkosi Reigns, third here in his 2006 debut on March 25, was timed in 59.80 seconds, by far the fastest of 37 works at the distance.

Also on the Saturday work tab was Nicole's Dream, whose 48.40-second work was second-fastest among 25 half-miles. Larry Rivelli, trainer of Nicole's Dream, has mentioned the Mamzelle Stakes at Churchill Downs as an early-season goal.