03/02/2004 12:00AM

Mandela stands out for Frankel

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ARCADIA, Calif. - An optimistic weather forecast of sun and clear skies through the weekend means the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on Saturday will be run on a fast track. It also means Thursday's card will be run on dry land, though the condition of the turf course is likely to remain damp following heavy rain that swept through the area Monday night.

Two allowance races for fillies and mares on turf will be run Thursday. The fourth race, for nonwinners-twice-other-than, will be run at 1 1/8 miles. The seventh race, for nonwinners-once-other-than, will be run at 6 1/2 furlongs down the hill.

Bobby Frankel trains the favorite in race 4, and the condition of the course is not likely to be a concern for his 4-year-old filly, Mandela. Bred in Germany and raced in Germany and France, Mandela is racing for the first time since a fifth-place finish Nov. 15 in the Grade 2 Long Island Handicap at Aqueduct. has won 2 of 8 starts, and her European form makes her a virtual standout. Alex Solis will ride.

Before she was imported to the U.S., Mandela finished third in a Group 1 and third in a Group 3. She repeatedly demonstrated the ability to handle wet turf, and she appears to hold a massive class advantage in this two-other-than allowance. Mandela returns off a consistent pattern of works.

Mandela's rivals include , upset winner of a one-other-than allowance on "good" turf Jan. 3; dropper Tifonica; Kirtle, a comebacker who has changed barns; Frankel's other entrant, Kiss and Fly; Maddie's Charm, another comebacker who has changed barns; and Esmay, who has run well against similar foes.

In race 7, Shoot makes her U.S. debut for Frankel. If she has an advantage in the downhill sprint, it is slight. Shoot has a win and two seconds in England, is owned by Juddmonte Farms, and will be ridden by Solis. The filly faces a modest field that includes European import Shebeen, making her U.S. debut for trainer Sandy Shulman.

Other starters include comebackers Bruheria and Adventure Cat, front-runners Ava Darling and Tender Teen, claiming filly It's Stevie's Time, recent maiden winner Spirit of Nature, and Montana Banana.

The Timeform ratings earned by Shoot and Shebeen are modest, but so are their rivals on Thursday. Spirit of Nature is lightly raced and eligible to improve, while Tender Teen could set the pace. She went a quarter in 20.60 seconds and a half-mile in 43 last time out before tiring.