08/29/2007 11:00PM

'Old man' in form after break

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Since making his career debut in October 2001, an 8-year-old horse named Onthedeanslist has had layoffs of eight months or longer on four occasions.

"He likes taking vacations," joked his trainer, Ralph Nicks. "He's just like us, although we don't get to do it very often."

When Onthedeanslist goes to work, however, he can be quite productive, such as when he led all the way to win the 2005 Tri-State Handicap at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky. And when he makes the third start in his form cycle, breaking from the outside post in a field of nine older horses entered Saturday in the $50,000 Tri-State at Ellis, "they're going to have to deal with the old man again," said Nicks.

A wire-to-wire winner of his last start, a $50,000 claiming route on the Arlington Park turf, Onthedeanslist infuses an element of early speed that should give the Tri-State, a 1o1/16-mile turf race, a solid pace, if not faster. One other primary contender, Obi Wan Kenobi, also has front-running tendencies, so Nicks is interested to see what kind of strategy will be used by jockey Joe Johnson, who has the call on Onthedeanslist.

"Joe will just have to let it play at the break," said Nicks. "This horse will follow one, but he is forwardly placed, and he will force things. Hopefully he'll lay nice and relaxed on the other horse's hip and go from there."

Obi Wan Kenobi, trained by Frank Brothers and to be ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., shares high weight of 118 pounds with Desert Wheat, a strict come-from-behinder who is trained by Nicks's former longtime boss, Bill Mott. Obi Wan Kenobi, a two-time allowance winner at the Churchill Downs spring meet, enters off a disappointing effort in the Sea O'Erin Handicap on the Arlington Million undercard at Arlington, while Desert Wheat, a multiple stakes winner in restricted company, enters off a nose victory in a Louisiana-bred stakes at Louisiana Downs.

The rest of the lineup for the Tri-State, which is named for the Kentucky-Indiana-Illinois region in which Ellis is located, is Mesawmi, One Eyed Joker, Cat Shaker, M B Sea, Cat and a Half, and Chief Export.

The Tri-State, the 10th of 11 Saturday races, is the final stakes of the 46-day Ellis meet.