06/09/2004 11:00PM

Country Be Gold should get a fast pace to run down

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Country Be Gold looks to be in the right place at the right time in Saturday's $100,000 Brandywine Handicap at Delaware Park. In a field filled with horses who usually run on or near the lead, Country Be Gold is a consistent closer who appears to be coming up to his best race.

Last fall, Country Be Gold put together back-to-back victories at Delaware, winning the Owners Day Handicap and Kelso Handicap. A 7-year-old trained by Reynaldo Nobles, Country Be Gold was beaten double-digit lengths in his first two starts of this year, the Grade 1 Donn and Grade 3 Skip Away, both at Gulfstream. But as soon as he came to Delaware, he started running in a manner befitting an earner of more than $600,000.

Country Be Gold ran third behind two of his Saturday opponents, Max Forever and Private Lap, in the Quick Card in May, and then fell a nose short of catching a loose-on-the-lead Pay the Preacher - also in Saturday's race - in a May 25 allowance.

The 1 1/16 miles of the Brandywine might be slightly shorter than Country Be Gold's optimum distance, but the expected fast pace should give him every chance to get up under jockey Oliver Castillo.

Private Lap, who followed his nose loss to Max Forever with a wire-to-wire win in the Eight Thirty here, and Pay the Preacher both usually run on the front end. Max Forever and Added Edge won't be far behind in the nine-horse field. Donald's Pride, winner of five straight, all at Charles Town, stretches out from a series of two-turn sprints there.

Another horse who would benefit from a fast pace is Loving, who won a $75,000 claimer at Delaware by 13 lengths three weeks ago. When Loving wins, the photo-finish camera is rarely involved. Aside from his recent blowout, Loving won the Gallant Fox at Aqueduct by 7 3/4 lengths in December and a $65,000 claiming race at The Meadowlands by the same margin last October.