09/28/2004 11:00PM

Mandella will fire two good shots

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Pragmatico and Reckless Hero give trainer Gary Mandella excellent chances to win two allowance races at Santa Anita on Friday.

Pragmatico deserves consideration in a $45,000 optional claimer over about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course in the second race. Reckless Hero is a top contender in a $41,000 allowance over 6 1/2 furlongs on dirt in the sixth race.

The allowance races are two of the eight races on Friday's program, which begins at 2:30 p.m.

Both Pragmatico and Reckless Hero are coming off victories at Del Mar.

won an allowance race over five furlongs on turf on Aug. 30, his first victory in this country. A 6-year-old gelding, Pragmatico won a sprint stakes on dirt in Chile in January, his final start before being sent to Mandella.

"I think he's gotten a little better every time," Mandella said. "We're stretching out, and that's what I'm worried about."

Pragmatico is a stalker who must catch Slew's Prince, a speedy 4-year-old colt trained by Clifford Sise. Slew's Prince is winless in four starts since he led throughout an allowance race over 5 1/2 furlongs on turf at Hollywood Park in April.

is likely to go favored in the sixth race. A 3-year-old colt, Reckless Hero returned from a three-month layoff Aug. 25 to lead throughout an optional claimer for statebreds over 6 1/2 furlongs.

"He ran a big race that day," Mandella said. "I think he's trained better since he won. I think he's got a few more lengths to improve. That's what it will take to get him through his conditions. I've always thought this was a horse that had a lot of potential."

Friday's race will be Reckless Hero's first start against open company since he was a maiden. Reckless Hero is likely to lead, but can sit just off the front if the pace is too hot.

Reckless Hero has eight opponents. Montbretia drew the rail and returns from a layoff of nearly 11 months.

Trainer Eoin Harty was not thrilled when he learned that Montbretia drew the rail.

"When you're on the rail, you're kind of committed," Harty said. "I think he's probably more effective if he comes from off the pace."

Montbretia has never been worse than second in four starts.

"He needed the time off. Once he came back, he came around quickly," Harty said. "If he doesn't win this he should be ready to win the next one. I'm cautiously optimistic."