03/13/2003 12:00AM

'Mandy' takes act on road

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Mandy's Gold gets around. Last year, she raced at seven different tracks and won at five of them. Earlier this week, she made the 19-hour van ride from Florida in order to compete here for the first time in Saturday's $200,000 Oaklawn Breeders' Cup.

The 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares is the final local prep for the Grade 1 Apple Blossom April 5.

Mandy's Gold, who won the Grade 1 Ruffian at 1 1/16 miles last September, should be favored in the nine-horse field that includes Red n'Gold, winner of the $50,000 Pippin at Oaklawn; Secret Of Mecca, who ships in from Santa Anita on the heels of a third-place finish behind Affluent in the Grade 1 Santa Monica; and Bien Nicole, a four-time stakes winner last year.

Mandy's Gold won her first start back from a three-month layoff in her last start, when she wired an allowance field at six furlongs at Gulfstream Feb. 24.

"I thought it was an excellent race to come back in," said Mike Gorham, who trains Mandy's Gold for Steeplechase Farm. "It wasn't too tough on her. She finished strong and got a lot out of it, and since then has come back and worked good over the track at Gulfstream."

Mandy's Gold, to be ridden by Rene Douglas, worked six furlongs in 1:14 March 8.

"I think she's good and fresh, and I think she'll run a good race," Gorham said.

Last year, Mandy's Gold won 5 of 13 starts and $715,404. She put together four straight sprint stakes wins from May to August at four different tracks, then proved she could carry her speed when she rated kindly and won the Ruffian at Belmont.

Among the locals, Red n'Gold, who was second last year in the Oaklawn BC, was a winner at the distance of this race in her last start when she defended her title in the Pippin. She has thrived since, and March 9 worked five furlongs in a razor-sharp 59.80 seconds.

"She's a little more mature [this year], and she's carrying more weight," said Bob Holthus, who trains Red n'Gold for the partnership of Braun and English.

Holthus looks for Red n'Gold, who will be ridden by Terry Thompson, to be close to the pace Saturday.

So should Secret of Mecca, who exits a seven-furlong race, and drew the rail. The filly, an entry-level allowance winner who placed in a graded stakes race last out in Southern California, fits the profile of last year's wire-to-wire Oaklawn BC winner, Ask Me No Secrets.

Trainer Ruben Cardenas has given the mount to Matt Garcia.

Another strong contender is Bien Nicole, who returns to dirt after winning six of 10 turf starts last year, including the $150,000 DeBartolo Memorial over males at Remington Park.

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