11/07/2001 1:00AM

Conditions favor this Kiwi

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Northern Crown presents a puzzle for bettors when he makes his U.S. debut on Friday at Hollywood Park.

An import from New Zealand, Northern Crown has been with trainer Simon Bray for two months, but has not started since September 2000. The winner of a maiden race and two cheap allowance races in 12 starts, Northern Crown was a sprinter in New Zealand, but is stretching out to 1 1/16 miles on turf in Friday's $42,000 allowance race.

Run as the eighth race, the allowance race is the top event on a nine-race program that begins at 7 p.m. Another Friday-night program is scheduled for Nov. 16. Afternoon racing will be presented beginning Friday, Nov. 23, through the end of the meeting on Dec. 17.

Northern Crown is eligible for Friday's first-condition allowance race because of a change in the race conditions that took effect at this meeting. Previously, allowance races were restricted to horses who had not won a first-place purse of $3,000 in races other than maiden, claiming or starter, a condition that had been used for decades.

Even though the condition was designed to include horses from the California fair circuit, purse increases made the condition obsolete since allowance races paid much more than $3,000 to the winner.

For this meeting, the condition was raised to nonwinners of a first-place purse of $8,000, which enables horses from countries with low purse structures to compete in easier allowance races than before.

"It's not like we're all looking for horses that have made $7,999 and we're trying to steal conditions," Bray said. "A three-other-than would be tough for him. It gives him a chance to get his foot in the door."

Regardless, Northern Crown must overcome a layoff and seven other horses.

Audmar was third in an allowance race/optional claimer at Del Mar in September for trainer Bobby Frankel and will be well supported. Good Cop Bad Cop, scratched from Wednesday's Bien Bien Stakes, may go favored. Trained by Dan Hendricks, he won an allowance race/optional claimer for California-breds at Santa Anita on Oct. 11.

Gallant is another import, having finished second at Ascot, England, in August. He has one win in eight starts and debuts for trainer Ian Jory.

Bray admits he will learn more about Northern Crown when he starts on Friday.

"I've watched two tapes on him and he's very impressive. He comes from dead last, at least that's what he did there," Bray said. "He's trained beautifully, but it's hard to tell."

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