02/02/2004 12:00AM

Mambo Dancer's class put to test


ARCADIA, Calif. - Mambo Dancer may relish the conditions Wednesday at Santa Anita when he makes his U.S. debut in a $56,000 allowance race.

An import from Chile, has won his last four starts, at distances from about seven furlongs to about 1 3/16 miles. Two of the wins were on muddy tracks, and the forecast Wednesday is for rain.

Mambo Dancer presents an oddity for handicappers. He has won 5 of 10 starts but is allowed to start in an allowance race for horses "that have never won $3,000 twice other than maiden, claiming, or starter" because at least four of his victories did not pay $3,000 to the winner.

The lower purses in Chile make Mambo Dancer's ability harder to assess, because the quality of his wins there is questionable.

Mambo Dancer's trainer, Laura de Seroux, said, "You can't really evaluate" the horse's form.

"But," she said, "he did get better and was running against better horses at the end of his streak."

De Seroux acquired Mambo Dancer, a 5-year-old gelding, last fall. He is owned by Marsha Naify and San Gabriel Investments.

"He was a modestly priced horse," de Seroux said. "He's ready to go. He's a horse that kept getting better."

De Seroux is not sure where Mambo Dancer will be in the early stages but says that he is most likely to take a stalking position.

"That will have to unfold," she said. "He's doesn't seem to have to be anywhere."

Mambo Dancer is part of an eight-horse field. Many of the starters have not run well in recent starts. Spensive and Traditional are winless in their last seven races, Atouratoura has not won in three starts, and Fail Me Not and Menuhin have lost their last two.

Snorter is likely to be favored. Trained by Bobby Frankel, Snorter won a first-condition allowance race over 1 1/16 miles here Oct. 18, rallying from sixth to win by a neck. He won his maiden at Belmont Park last May in his final start for trainer James Bond.

The Student will set the pace. Trained by Darrell Vienna, The Student won a six-furlong allowance race at Santa Anita on Nov. 2. In his next start, Jan. 2 in a six-furlong optional claimer, The Student was part of a wicked speed duel - a half-mile in less than 43 seconds - and faded to finish fourth.

Wednesday's race will be the longest of his career.