09/15/2006 12:00AM

Norm's Nephew danger on drop


AUBURN, Wash. - Norm's Nephew heads a field of seven older handicap runners in Sunday's $50,000 Muckleshoot Tribal Classic at 1 1/16 miles, the centerpiece of a Washington Cup Day program that includes seven stakes for statebreds worth $300,000.

Norm's Nephew, a 4-year-old son of Jazzing Around from the barn of trainer Jimmy Orr, was named the top 3-year-old at Emerald Downs last year after winning 4 of 7 starts at the meeting. He is winless in five starts this year, but he ran second in the $75,000 Budweiser Emerald Handi-cap at a mile and third in the FSN Handicap and the Governor's Handicap, both at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Norm's Nephew is coming off a start in the Grade 3 Longacres Mile on Aug. 20, when he tired to finish ninth of 11 after chasing the pace of eventual winner, Flamethrowin-texan. Norm's Nephew gets his softest assignment of the year on Sunday, and he appears to be near the top of his game after working five furlongs in 57 seconds on Sept. 8.

Tops among Norm's Nephew's opponents is Corvallis Dee, who will be shooting for his third win in a row after enduring a long win drought. Corvallis Dee, a 5-year-old trained by Bud Klokstad, was Emerald's top 2-year-old in 2003, when he won the Gottstein Futurity at 1 1/16 miles. He suffered a knee injury while racing in California later that year, however, and did not win in either 2004 or 2005. He was unplaced in his first two starts this year as well, but he woke up with a 14-length score against $17,500 claimers on July 27, then confirmed his resurgence by defeating $25,000 optional claimers on Aug. 26, when he ran a mile in 1:35.20 to win by nearly three lengths.

"It's good to see him running well again," said Klokstad. "Of course, he hasn't beaten the kind of horses he will face on Sunday, but he has been doing it awfully easy and those wins have built his heart up."

Also deserving of consideration is Best Game in Town, who fell just a neck short in last year's running of the Muckleshoot Tribal Classic, which was won by his stablemate, Mr. Makah.

Best Game in Town, a 5-year-old son of Game Plan trained by Bonnie Jenne, might be due for a victory after ending up with three seconds and a third in five starts this year.