08/10/2004 12:00AM

'Millenium' moves to next level

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AUBURN, Wash. - Millenium Nugget, claimed out of a sharp win over $20,000 rivals in his last start, steps up to the $25,000 level Thursday, when he heads a field of seven 3-year-olds in the 6 1/2-furlong feature at Emerald Downs.

Millenium Nugget won two of three starts here last season as a juvenile, including the six-furlong Captain Condo Stakes. After going unplaced in his first two outings this season, though, he was dropped in for $20,000 last time out July 25. Millenium Nugget responded with a 1 1/2-length victory in 1:10 for six furlongs, but trainer Tom Wenzel claimed him out of that race for Remmah Racing Inc. Wenzel is wheeling Millenium Nugget back in a similar spot, and Millenium Nugget should prove difficult to beat if he gets an honest pace to target.

An honest pace may be hard to come by on Thursday, however, since there is only one confirmed front-runner in the field. That is Ill Naab the Win, who held on for second to Millenium Nugget after dueling for the early advantage July 25. If Ill Naab the Win is allowed to dictate the fractions on Thursday, he may be able to lead throughout despite stretching out from six to 6 1/2 furlongs.

Ill Naab the Win may be challenged early by Hezamanon-therun, who will be coupled with Naaba Trip in the wagering because of common ownership ties. Hezamanontherun normally assumes a stalking position, but he has speed, and rider Gary Baze may elect to use it Thursday, when he breaks from the rail post.