03/18/2006 12:00AM

Nicole's Dream puts off retirement for a year


CHICAGO - No more Hong Kong trips for Nicole's Dream, but another year of racing.

The leading Midwest turf sprinter over the last several seasons, Nicole's Dream might have been retired this winter after a last-place finish in the Dec. 11 Hong Kong Sprint. Instead, she is back at trainer Larry Rivelli's Hawthorne barn, working her way toward a 2006 debut.

Nicole's Dream breezed a snappy three furlongs last Monday at Hawthorne, her first work of the season, and could make her first start of the year sometime next month, perhaps in a dirt allowance race at the National Jockey Club meet or at one of the West Virginia tracks. Her first major goal, Rivelli said, is the Mamzelle Stakes on Kentucky Oaks Day, a race Nicole's Dream has won the last two seasons.

"At this point there's really no reason to retire her," said Rivelli, who trains Nicole's Dream for a Dare to Dream Stable partnership. "She can be a broodmare at 7 just as well as 6. She's just as good. The only reason she ran so poorly in Hong Kong is no Lasix. She needs it."

Nicole's Dream has won 16 of 29 turf starts and 20 of 43 overall, and she stays busy. In 2005, she made 11 starts; the year before, she made 10. Rivelli has shipped her all over the place, and she has run against males on several occasions, but Rivelli said he might curtail the schedule for Nicole's Dream this year.

"Maybe we won't campaign her as much," Rivelli said.

But if Nicole's Dream starts winning again, it might not be so easy to stick to that plan.

Catalano favorite appears beatable

A $35,000 optional claimer for 3-year-olds and a first-level allowance for older horses highlight the nine-race program here Tuesday.

Sadly, no hot 3-year-old prospects appear among the six horses entered in the six-furlong fourth race. Maneke may be the favorite, since Wayne Catalano trains him, and virtually every Catalano horse this meet has been favored. Taking stands against overbet Catalano favorites has been profitable in several instances, and there is no reason Maneke, who may be better on turf than dirt, has to win here. Brunzer and City Number both seem capable, and Kottopoula won his 2005 finale by some 13 lengths.