09/02/2006 12:00AM

Returning champ takes same path

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Dontbotherknocking and Major Rhythm, who have accounted for the last two runnings of the DeBartolo Memorial Breeders' Cup Handicap at Remington Park, will take on newcomers Load a Chronic, Nobodywantmetilnow, Gin and Sin, and Real Dandy in the $150,000 DeBartolo Memorial on Monday.

A 1 1/8-mile race, the DeBartolo is the richest turf race of the meet and the main event on a three-stakes card that will have a special daytime post of 2:30 p.m. Central. It drew a field of 12.

Dontbotherknocking won last year's DeBartolo by a half-length and has followed the same pattern of races to this year's running as he did in 2005.

"That's what the intention was, to see if lightning will strike twice," said Bernell Rhone, who trains Dontbotherknocking.

In his last start Aug. 5, Dontbotherknocking won the $75,000 John Bullit at Canterbury, the same race he won one start before last year's DeBartolo.

"I think it's going to be a stronger race," Rhone said of this year's DeBartolo. "But I feel more confident in the race he's going to run as being a very good race. He'll run as good if not better than he did last year, but now we've got to see what the competition does.

"He's sharper. He hasn't missed a beat. His works have been tremendous and well in hand, and physically and mentally, I think he's more at the top of his game than he was last year at this time."

Rhone said he is hoping for a strong pace for Dontbotherknocking, a closer who will be ridden by Quincy Hamilton.

Major Rhythm, who in his last Remington start won the 2004 DeBartolo, should be closer to the pace. He is the 120-pound highweight under Earlie Fires.

"He's like a stalker," said Ed Beam, who trains Major Rhythm.

Major Rhythm was ninth last out in the Arlington Million, and before that won the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes at double-digit odds at Arlington.

"He shouldn't have been 35-1; he's too consistent," said Beam. "I could not believe it. But it doesn't make any difference to me. He can't read and I don't care."

Load a Chronic also invades from Arlington. Claimed for $30,000 by his present connections, he was second last out in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap.

"He ran super," said his trainer, Shannon Ritter. "He made a really nice bid. I think he likes to lay just off the pace a little bit."