01/19/2005 12:00AM

'Buckland' should expect a stiff test

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Nothing is easy for .

If he's not tackling the circuit's best in the Oak Tree Mile or Citation Handicap, as he did last fall, he is being challenged by a tough set of opponents in allowance races.

On Dec. 27, Buckland Manor held off a late run from Inesperado to win a one-mile turf allowance by a neck. He faces Inesperado again and three others in a $65,000 allowance race at Santa Anita on Friday.

The one-mile turf race could serve as a prep to the $300,000 Frank Kilroe Mile on turf on March 5, the championship race for the distance at this meeting.

Friday, Buckland Manor will be favored to score the sixth win of his 16-race career. A 5-year-old, Buckland Manor races for breeders Trudy McCaffery and John Toffan.

"A mile is perfect and he's doing very good," said trainer Paco Gonzalez. "His weight looks better. He came out of the last race very well."

The Dec. 27 win was Buckland Manor's first in a year, a span that included a sixth in the Kilroe Mile in March, a second in the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile in October, and a fifth in the Grade 1 Citation Handicap in November. The loss in the Oak Tree Mile was flattered when third-place finisher Singletary returned to win the Breeders' Cup Mile.

In the win Dec. 27, Buckland Manor stalked the pace to early stretch and took the lead in the final furlong.

Gonzalez insists Buckland Manor is ready even though wet weather interfered with recent training.

"We didn't get to breeze him, but he trains very aggressively," Gonzalez said. "He's very tough to gallop."

Rene Douglas retains the mount on Buckland Manor and may not have much competition in the first half of the race from his four rivals, Ay Caramba, Del Mar Show, Inesperado, and Seinne. Those four, all stalkers or closers, come into the race following losing streaks of at least four races.

Seinne and Del Mar Show were fourth and fifth behind Buckland Manor on Dec. 27. Seinne was making his first start since finishing second in the Grade 3 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap last September.

Trainer Bobby Frankel starts Ay Caramba and Inesperado.

Ay Caramba, a two-time stakes winner in Brazil in 2003, has one victory in five starts in the United States. Friday's allowance race marks Ay Caramba's first start for Frankel, having been previously trained by Eduardo Caramori. Inesperado has not been worse than third in his last seven starts.