04/08/2004 11:00PM

Long-awaited day here for Mambo Slew


ARCADIA, Calif. - Anything less than a win by in Sunday's $100,000 Providencia Stakes at Santa Anita will be a disappointment for trainer Patrick Biancone.

Run over a mile on turf for 3-year-old fillies, the Providencia has been Mambo Slew's goal since she won the Grade 3 Miesque Stakes at Hollywood Park last fall in her stakes debut.

The Providencia is Mambo Slew's third start of the meeting. She won the Blue Norther Stakes by three lengths in January and was second to Ticker Tape in the China Doll Stakes on March 18.

"This was our target for a long time and the other race was a prep race," Biancone said. "She's training well and we're very confident."

The China Doll Stakes was Mambo Slew's first loss in four starts on turf, and the second loss of her career. She finished fifth in a maiden race on dirt at Saratoga last summer.

In her first three turf races, Mambo Slew rallied from mid-pack, but in the China Doll she was near the pace and was caught late. Mike Smith, who has been aboard for Mambo Slew's last three starts, has the mount on Sunday.

The Providencia Stakes has drawn 12 fillies, eight of whom ran in the China Doll Stakes.

Ticker Tape returns, as do the third- through sixth-place finishers - Amorama, Penny's Fortune, Gracefully, and Shake Off.

The China Doll was Amorama's first start since a fourth-place finish in the Miesque Stakes. Trained by Julio Canani, she adds blinkers for the Providencia.

Gracefully, a stakes winner in England last year, is a threat to Mambo Slew. Trained by Bobby Frankel, Gracefully was making her U.S. debut in the China Doll Stakes, and rallied from ninth to finish 2 1/4 lengths behind Ticker Tape. In England last year, Gracefully won the Group 3 Prestige Stakes over seven furlongs at Goodwood.

There should be ample pace for Mambo Slew to follow. Rather Have Rubies, a maiden who has started twice, and Old Chinese Copy, a three-length winner of a $62,500 claimer on March 24, should ensure a good pace.

Traffic could become an issue for the closers since the rails will be set eight feet from the permanent position, which slightly narrows the course.

After Sunday's race, Mambo Slew will join Biancone's horses that will travel to Kentucky and New York. Biancone has set the American Oaks at Hollywood Park as a July goal for Mambo Slew.