07/11/2005 11:00PM

King's Drama ready to fire off layoff

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King's Drama made 2004 his coming-out party. In addition to scoring two big allowance wins, he had good efforts behind some of the best turf horses in the world - Sulamani, Brian Boru, Magistretti, Epalo, and Meteor Storm.

hasn't been seen since last fall, but resurfaces in Thursday's featured eighth race at Belmont and figures awfully tough to handle if he is ready to return to last year's performance level. A field of five, plus two main track-only entrants, has been lured to the $58,000 turf race at 1 1/8 miles, which will be run on the inner course and is for $100,000 optional claimers.

Four of King's Drama's foes are stakes winners and two are graded stakes winners, but the race looks like it's King's Drama's to lose.

Owned by Gary Tanaka and trained by Bobby Frankel, King's Drama began his career in Europe, then came to the United States for a couple of turf stakes, finishing third in the Virginia Derby and ninth in the Grade 1 Secretariat. He went back to Europe, but the start of his 2004 campaign was dull. His connections opted to move him back to the States, and it paid off immediately. He was fourth to Meteor Storm in the Grade 1 Manhattan here and followed that with two powerful allowance victories here and at Saratoga.

Those efforts earned him a berth in the Grade 1 Man o' War, where he finished third behind world-class runners Magistretti and Epalo. His last race of 2004 came in October at Woodbine in the Grade 1 Canadian International. He stalked the pace, and actually made the lead into the lane, but faltered to fifth behind Sulamani, Simonas, and Brian Boru. He has worked in solid fashion, hails from a barn clicking at a hot 32 percent this meet, and has John Velazquez in the irons.

, now trained by Richard Stoklosa, has nearly $1 million in the bank and at one time could handle himself against graded stakes foes. He may not be the same horse at 7, though, and his only race this year, in April at Gulfstream, was on the dull side. Nevertheless, a return to even his "B" game makes him a player. Rafael Bejarano rides.

has earned more than $741,000 for trainer John Fisher. An 8-year-old, Dr. Kashnikow may not be what he once was, but his return run at Monmouth last month was encouraging. Dr. Kashnikow sat back and made steady headway to finish a close fifth. Richard Migliore rides.

Muqbil, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, also deserves a long look coming off two straight nice seconds to the razor-sharp Salic Law, both on this course. Edgar Prado rides.