04/10/2004 12:00AM

Track may rekindle Ten Most Wanted's career


STICKNEY, Ill. - Rare is the shipper from Hollywood to Hawthorne, but getting from Southern California to southwest Chicago is how Ten Most Wanted will spend his Wednesday.

This is not the first time Ten Most Wanted has made the trip. As an unproven 3-year-old, Ten Most Wanted came here last spring and won the Illinois Derby by four lengths. He ran so well in that race that he went into the Kentucky Derby as the 6-1 third favorite - and ran ninth.

That was the first of three disappointing efforts from Ten Most Wanted during a 12-start career. The others came in his two most recent races; an eighth in the Breeders' Cup Classic and a distant fifth Feb. 29 in the New Orleans Handicap, his first start of 2004.

Saturday, when he starts in the National Jockey Club Handicap, Ten Most Wanted cannot completely remove the sour taste of those last two experiences. The competition here is not likely to be strong enough to boost Ten Most Wanted back near the top of the national older-horse division, even if he wins easily. But the NJC purse is $250,000, and a comfortable win might get Ten Most Wanted back into the ballgame.

Much of the reason Ten Most Wanted's connections chose this spot was the way Ten Most Wanted performed here a year ago.

"When he won the Illinois Derby, he was there for four days, and he had a really good experience," said Amy Dollase, a traveling assistant to her father, Ten Most Wanted's trainer Wally Dollase. "This should be a nice change of pace for him."

Ten Most Wanted took a solid bump coming into the first turn of the New Orleans Handicap, a roughly run race, but came out of the start in good shape. "That last race didn't seem to affect him physically or mentally," Amy Dollase said.

The rest of the field for the NJC Handicap was unclear as of this weekend, but Ten Most Wanted will be a heavy favorite to win the race. Others considered probable starters are Parrott Bay and Fighting Indians, with a lengthy list of possible runners.

Allspice pointing to Sixty Sails

The stakes-winning filly Allspice had her first work since shipping into Hawthorne from Fair Grounds and is likely to make her next start April 24 in the Grade 3 Sixty Sails Handicap, according to trainer Greg Geier.

Owned and bred by Jim Tafel, Allspice won the $100,000 Eliza Stakes as a 2-year-old, but had a checkered 3-year-old season last year. Back in action this winter at Fair Grounds, Allspice ran three times, finishing second twice, and though she has not yet run back to her best form, Allspice probably still has not hit her ceiling.

"She's come back fine," Geier said. "She worked real well the other day."

Several other stakes horses also put in recent workouts here, including Apt to Be and the crack turf sprinter Nicole's Dream. Apt to Be, unraced since a slop debacle last October at Churchill, has the Hanshin Handicap in late May at Arlington as a long-term goal, according to his trainer, Chris Block. Apt to Be, who worked a solid

five furlongs here Friday, won the Grade 3 Hanshin last season.

Wednesday, Nicole's Dream worked a half-mile in a day's best 47 seconds as she prepares for the

April 29 Mamzelle Stakes, a five-furlong grass race at Churchill Downs. Nicole's Dream has won seven of 10 grass starts, including two stakes in Chicago last season, and was rained off turf in her lone 2004 start, an allowance race last month at Tampa.

"I don't think she really wants anything to do with dirt right now," said trainer Larry Rivelli.

Sparkling Sabia may be the one

Monday's featured race is the fifth, a third-level filly-and-mare sprint that drew a seven-horse field. Sassy Bear was the only one of the scheduled starters to be entered under a $35,000 claiming option.

And good luck with this one: All seven of these horses look about the same on paper.

It's Spooky spent last year on the East Coast, but is one of a handful of horses stabled at Hawthorne with trainer James McMullen. It's Spooky finished third last out in a race at this class level and might be the speed of this race.

But she is likely to get some pressure up front. The race could set up for Sparkling Sabia, who was fifth in a quickly run Oaklawn Park allowance in her last start and has found an easier spot this time.

* The first grass race of the National Jockey Club at Hawthorne season is scheduled for April 23, but the course might be ready to use before then.

"If the weather allows, we might go as early as [April] 16th," said Jim Miller, Hawthorne's director of media relations. "We walked it a week ago, and it was in great shape."

* The journeyman rider James Lopez has shifted his tack to Chicago. Lopez, who is being represented by agent Jay Fedor, began riding here last week after wintering at Oaklawn Park, where he won nine races from 101 mounts.

* Conspicuously absent from last Saturday's day of six Illinois-bred stakes races was the 4-year-old filly Keeping the Gold, who was Grade 3- placed last summer. Keeping the Gold suffered an injury over the winter and has been retired to become a broodmare, according to trainer Chris Block.