05/30/2005 11:00PM

Norm's Nephew Tacoma-bound


AUBURN, Wash. - It's three wins in a row and counting for Norm's Nephew, who likely will try to extend his winning streak in the one-mile Tacoma Handicap for 3-year-olds on June 26 at Emerald Downs.

That's what trainer Jimmy Orr suggested after Norm's Nephew, a speedy son of Jazzing Around who races for Gunshy Manor and the trainer's wife, Leona, blitzed four opponents in Monday's Pepsi-Cola Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs here at Emerald.

"I think he'll get a mile if he will relax, and I'm pretty sure he will relax," Orr said.

Both Orr and rider Debbie Hoonan said they left Norm's Nephew on his own Monday, when he discouraged three pace rivals with a sizzling half-mile in 43.40 seconds, then coasted to a five-length victory over California invader Marsh Creek in 1:16. Idabetabuck, the only rater in the field of five, got up for third.

"Jimmy said this horse probably knows more than both of us put together, so we let him do his thing," Hoonan said.

Another California invader, Funny Flyer, was scratched after arriving at Emerald with a temperature, and Auburn Stakes winner Beau Maggie was scratched after being treated with penicillin for a minor ailment.

The Pepsi-Cola was the first stakes win for Norm's Nephew, who came into the race off impressive scores in maiden special weight and allowance company. Orr, 62, is a lifelong horseman, but he began training only after Longacres closed in 1992.

"I had always broken other people's horses, but I decided to take it to the next level after Longacres closed," he said. "I trained at Yakima for three years, then I came here when this track opened."

The hard-working Orr, a former rider, breaks and gallops his own small string of horses, and he shares groom duties with a single employee. It is difficult to come up with good horses in such a small operation, but Orr knew he had a good one when he put Norm's Nephew into training last summer.

"I thought he had a lot of talent, but I didn't want to get my hopes too high," he said. "Then his massage therapist, Diane Lukenbill, told me that it made her hair stand on end when she watched him run, and I knew I wasn't alone in my opinion about him."

Yes, Norm's Nephew has a massage therapist. And, yes, Lukenbill's opinion seems correct, because Norm's Nephew has shown he can run a ton. Now, it is merely a question of how far he can go.

Puhich: Better luck Belmont Day?

Memorial Day wasn't a day to remember for trainer Mike Puhich, who shipped Pure as Gold here for the Pepsi-Cola. Moments before the race went off, Puhich received word that another horse from his barn, Ruby's Wild Harte, had been scratched on the way to the gate in Hollywood's 10th race. A few minutes later, he watched Pure as Gold fade to finish last after contesting the early pace.

Perhaps Puhich has gotten his bad luck out of the way before June 11, when he will saddle Southern Africa for Al and Sandee Kirkwood in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes in New York.

"I'm pretty excited about running him in the Belmont," Puhich said. "I don't think the mile and a half will bother him at all, and he is a relatively fresh horse whose numbers are getting better with each race. I think he'll have a legitimate shot."

Southern Africa, a son of Cape Town, comes off a 1 1/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby on May 14, when he earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 96. In two earlier starts, at Sunland Park, he won the $104,000 Borderland Derby and finished a close second to Thor's Echo in the $500,000 WinStar Derby.

Win-A-Jockey winner picks Frazier

Robert Striker of Ravensdale, Wash., won Monday's Win-A-Jockey Sweepstakes when the horse he selected to represent him, Standard Setter, defeated 11 others in the eighth race. Striker will receive the equivalent of one percent of the purse earnings of the jockey of his choice at this year's Emerald Downs meet.

Striker selected Ricky Frazier, who is second in wins at the meeting but leads all riders with $282,961 in purse earnings. That means Striker already has $2,829.61 in his account, with 79 days of the 101-day meet remaining.

Jessica Pennington, the winner of last year's Win-A-Jockey Sweepstakes, also selected Frazier and collected more than $12,000 at the end of the meet.

Wasserman is on the rise

A possible player in future stakes races for 3-year-olds emerged in Friday's fourth race for maiden special weight runners. His name is Wasserman, and he won by 6 1/2 lengths, covering the six furlongs in 1:09.60.

Wasserman, a son of Cahill Road from the Knights Choice mare Share the Knight, is trained by Howard Belvoir.

"He trained well in California before I brought him here, so I'm not really surprised that he ran the way he did," said Belvoir. "Now the problem will be finding a place to run him. The 3-year-olds here are ready to stretch out now, but he'll need at least one more sprint. I'll be looking for an allowance race for him, either here or in California."

* Jockey Nate Chaves injured his wrist when thrown from his mount in the paddock before Sunday's first race. Chaves rode that race, finishing second aboard Basket Wave, but took off the remainder of his mounts on Sunday and all of his mounts on Monday. He expects to resume riding on Friday.