01/10/2003 1:00AM

Bruanna's the first lady here


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - At virtually any other time in his 17-year training career, Mike Gorham would have found it easy to label Bruanna as his "big mare." After all, Bruanna has won three of four starts since Gorham claimed her last summer, including victories in two stakes.

But with Mandy's Gold in Gorham's 20-horse stable, there is no room atop the totem pole. Mandy's Gold was a primary reason that Gorham enjoyed the best year of his career in 2002, as she earned over $666,000 and won five stakes, highlighted by the Grade 1 Ruffian at Belmont Park.

Clearly, the problem of having two stakes-quality mares in the barn is no problem.

"Absolutely not," said Gorham, a 38-year-old Massachusetts native whose stable won 42 races and nearly $1.9 million from 250 starts last year.

Sunday at Gulfstream Park, Gorham can get a quick start on another good year when he saddles Bruanna in the $100,000 The First Lady Handicap, a Grade 3 race that drew a field of eight fillies and mares. Bruanna has not raced in more than four months, but Gorham said the gap in activity might be misleading.

"She's actually been ready to run for quite a while," he said. "There were a couple of money-won allowance races I wanted to get her into before we came south, and there was also a five-eighths turf race at Calder that we could have gone into. But I figured I'd just wait and run early here."

The wait may pay handsomely if Bruanna, a 5-year-old Housebuster mare who was claimed in June for $35,000, performs as well as she did last year in winning 5 of 7 starts. Owned by Jack Murphy and Gorham's Old Coach Farm, Bruanna has a stalking style that should be well-served by starting from post 7 in the six-furlong The First Lady.

"That's the way she likes to do it," said Gorham.

The highweight in the race is the Bill Mott-trained Forest Heiress, a winner of her last two starts. Other notable challengers include Chispiski, a speedy Calder-based mare trained by Ron Spatz, and Interest Only, an inconsistent but talented Kentucky invader for trainer Steve Flint.

The rest of the field is Preferred Option, Fly Me Crazy, Haunted Lass, and Harmony Lodge.

First post for an 11-race Sunday card is 1 p.m. Eastern. Two allowances, races 5 and 9, also are on the card. Singer Don McLean will perform on the concert stage.

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