09/25/2003 11:00PM

Hinds or Goodwood for 'Reba'


POMONA, Calif. - The choices are clear for trainer Dan Hendricks and stable star Reba's Gold. The 6-year-old Reba's Gold can start favored in a competitive $100,000 stakes race Sunday at Fairplex Park, or wait six days and be among the leading contenders - but not the favorite - in a relatively weak $500,000 stakes race Saturday at Santa Anita.

"If I knew [Sunday] was going to be easy on him, I'd run in both races without hesitation," Hendricks said.

It would not be the first time. Last year, Reba's Gold won the $100,000 Ralph M. Hinds Handicap, and one week later finished third in the $500,000 Goodwood. But the issue is complicated because the strength of both races has changed, relative to last year. The Hinds is tougher, and the Goodwood is weaker.

"Whoever wins [the Hinds] is going to be more tired than last year," Hendricks said.

Beyond 122-pound highweight Reba's Gold, the nine-horse field includes Denied, who has finished first in four straight races - he was disqualified once - with 100-plus Beyer Figures. Daunting has earned four-digit Beyers in three of his last five races; 10-year-old Native Desert won the 1997 Hinds and has earned $1.8 million; Infinite Faith and Legendary Weave ran one-two in a Fairplex stakes race Sept. 13. Dixie Law, Slewston, and Chinkapin are also entered.

The Hinds, run at about 1 1/8 miles, is anything but a slam dunk for Reba's Gold. Besides, winning the Goodwood would mean more to owner Alex Trebek and Reba's Gold than winning the Hinds again.

"It's not as big a deal for the horse's stud career to win this year," Hendricks said. "Last year, he wasn't a stakes winner. Now he's a graded stakes winner of [almost] $700,000."

David Flores will ride Reba's Gold, whose current class - he drops out of a series of graded stakes races - makes him the logical favorite. Hendricks will decide Sunday morning whether to run Reba's Gold in the Hinds, or await the Goodwood.

One horse without an alternative is Denied, who will try to give trainer Jeff Mullins his first Hinds Handicap win. Denied will be racing for the first time at Fairplex.

"He worked on this track like you can't believe," Mullins said. "He takes the turns like King Robyn [the Foothill Stakes winner]."