11/09/2005 1:00AM

Reineman stable looking strong as ever

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Home of Stars will have to face Wiggins in Saturday's High Alexander.

STICKNEY, Ill. - When Russell Reineman died at 86 in the spring of 2004, it was uncertain what shape his extensive horse holdings would assume in the coming years. Reineman owned and ran Crown Steel on the South Side of Chicago and owned upward of 150 horses, both racing and breeding stock, at the time of his death. His broodmare band numbered about 35, he had racehorses with several trainers, and the 2002 Kentucky Derby winner and 3-year-old champion, War Emblem, was a product of the Reineman operation.

Twenty months after his death, the Reineman name still is strong in the game. His granddaughter, Jen McCutcheon, has assumed control of the horse operations, and the Reineman stable is in the midst of an excellent run. Original Spin finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and is sure to be named champion Illinois-bred 2-year-old filly of 2005. And on Saturday's six-stakes festival of Illinois-bred racing, the Reineman stable will send out two horses likely to be favored: Home of Stars in the High Alexander Stakes, and the unbeaten 2-year-old Last Gran Standing in the Sun Power Stakes.

McCutcheon's serious involvement in the horse business began about six months before her grandfather's death. Reineman's daughter and McCutcheon's mother, Lynn McCutcheon, also keeps an eye on the horse business, McCutcheon said, but her time is taken up running Crown Steel. And while the stable has been significantly reduced since Reineman's death, the entire operation still consists of more than 100 horses, and Reineman's heirs are simply happy still to be playing.

"We didn't know what was going to happen at first," McCutcheon said Wednesday, reached by phone at the Keeneland sales. "It was never that we didn't love the sport, but the situation was really difficult. The estate tax was the biggest problem, when you have all assets and no liquidity. But I think because we've loved it, we all worked really hard to stay involved."

Home of Stars is 5, and he has been knocking around for years, but the success of the Reineman stable's 2-year-olds has taken McCutcheon by surprise. Original Spin, who has been put away for the year, is something special, and Last Gran Standing was impressive beating open company here two weeks ago.

"I'm over the moon about things right now, because we sold so much," McCutcheon said. "Half our yearling crop we sold, what we considered at the time what were the better horses in the crop. I wondered if these 2-year-olds were going to turn out to be much, but I wish every crop could turn out as well as these."

Most of Saturday's Illinois-bred stakes are coming up pretty strong, especially the Lightning Jet for older sprinters, and the Showtime Deb for 2-year-old fillies. And the task became tougher for Home of Stars in the High Alexander with the news that trainer Dale Romans is sending Wiggins in from Churchill Downs.

"We wouldn't come unless he was doing good," Romans said.

Nicole's Dream preps for Hong Kong

The crack turf sprinter Nicole's Dream was rained off the grass Sunday and finished off the board in an overnight sprint stakes, but the race served its purpose: a final bit of work before her trip to Hong Kong later this month.

Nicole's Dream remains on course for her trip, trainer Larry Rivelli said, and is scheduled to depart on Nov. 28 for Sha Tin Race Course. Nicole's Dream races Dec. 11 in a straight-course turf sprint worth more than $1 million.

"It kind of screwed us up, but I had to leave her in that race," Rivelli said. "It was either run her or work her, and we decided to keep her in, knowing she really doesn't like the dirt."

Wild Tale headed for De Francis Dash

Trainer Mike Dini said that Wild Tale, a close closing third in the Sport Page Handicap on Breeders' Cup Day at Belmont, is bound for the Grade 1 De Francis Dash on Nov. 19 at Laurel. Wild Tale's connections also had considered pointing for an overnight sprint stakes at Churchill, but Wild Tale "is galloping really strong right now," Dini said.

Wild Tale, a $25,000 claim last year, will leave by van for Maryland next Thursday, Dini said. Dini is trying to contract Mark Guidry to ride in the De Francis.

Mr. C Note heads feature

By 4:30 p.m. at Hawthorne these days darkness has just about settled in, so Friday's featured ninth race will be run under lights. Barring rain before then, it also will be contested on turf, the surface that Mr. C Note prefers.

Mr. C Note is sure to be a strong favorite in this second-level allowance race for Illinois-breds: In his most recent start, Mr. C Note finished second of eight, beaten less than a length in an open second-level allowance race.

But was that recent start too recent? Mr. C Note, a late-season 4-year-old with just 12 career starts, will just a 12-day break between starts, and that might be pushing things. If he runs back to his last start, he wins, but if Mr. C Note slips a notch - and he has been beaten several times as a heavy favorite - give Big Bold Place, A Great Hunt, and even Chateau a look. Chateau has never raced on turf, but has a grass-leaning pedigree and should make a clear lead in Friday's nightcap.

Chapa has left the grounds

With 23 wins at this meet, rider Roman Chapa is tied for third in the jockey standings here, just three off the lead. He also is gone.

Chapa, as expected, has left the colony, and after a short break will emerge at the Fair Grounds-at-Louisiana Downs meet that commences later this month. Chapa typically winters at Oaklawn, and he is expected to shift his tack there early next year.