09/07/2005 12:00AM

Nkosi Reigns won't dodge 'Drift'

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Perfect Drift figures to be heavily favored when he makes his next start in the Hawthorne Gold Cup on Sept. 24. He might scare off the one-time maiden-claimer Lord of the Game, but another good Chicago-based horse, Nkosi Reigns, is pointing for the Gold Cup, Perfect Drift or no.

"That's the plan," said trainer Christine Janks.

Nkosi Reigns has won twice in five starts this year, winning an overnight stakes on Arlington Million Day the last time he raced. Nkosi Reigns worked a bullet five furlongs on Sept. 1, and his physical condition is one reason Janks is planning on giving Nkosi Reigns a shot in the Gold Cup.

"He's eating so much more now," she said. "He's always been such a skinny horse. He was good, but he wasn't strong enough to try something like this before."

Lord of the Game won 7 of his first 8 starts, including the Cornhusker Handicap, but had lost two in a row - including a fourth in Nkosi Reigns's overnight stakes victory - going into last weekend. He made his turf debut on Sunday and showed the same grit on grass that he has on dirt, battling on a quick early pace and coming back to win by a head after being passed in deep stretch. It was only a $10,000 starter-allowance race, but the victory still was stirring.

"He's a pretty nice horse that way, with his heart," said trainer Tom Tomillo.

Lord of the Game came out of his win in good shape, Tomillo said, and would be nominated to the Gold Cup. But Tomillo is sounding like he has little interest in taking on a horse like Perfect Drift.

"I'll have to see who's in there," he said. "If it's too tough, I ain't going to run."

As for Janks, she also plans to send Arlington Sprint winner Fifteen Rounds to the Phoenix Breeders' Cup, a six-furlong sprint Oct. 9 at Keeneland.

"He'll have to step up if he's going to be that kind of horse," said Janks.

Fifteen Rounds will go to Keeneland several days in advance of the race, Janks said, because he has a history of shipping poorly.

Indiana Derby for Southern Africa

Southern Africa, who finished second to Sun King on Monday in the Pennsylvania Derby, is likely to make his next start Oct. 1 in the Indiana Derby at Hoosier, according to trainer Mike Puhich.

Southern Africa returned to his Arlington base early Monday morning and came out of his race in good shape, Puhich said. It was by far Southern Africa's best race since he won the Lone Star Derby on May 14, and Puhich was especially pleased, since Southern Africa broke last in a 14-horse field and came from 12th place to get second while rallying wide.

"I thought he ran lights out," said Puhich.

Charley Tango breezes a bullet

Charley Tango, a winner of his first two starts, worked Wednesday toward a start in the Sept. 18 Arlington-Washington Futurity, breezing a half-mile in a bullet 48.20 seconds. Trained for Stonerside Stable by Mike Stidham, Charley Tango worked with two other horses, breaking off behind them and splitting the pair while coming for home.

"He worked well," Stidham said.

Stidham's promising 2-year-old filly Party Planner has recovered from a virus that cost her a start last month. But Party Planner, an impressive maiden winner earlier this summer, won't be ready for the Arlington-Washington Lassie, Stidham said. Party Planner instead might make her next start at the Keeneland meet.