06/13/2003 12:00AM

Mandy's Gold better than ever

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Mandy's Gold will be in search of her second Grade 1 win at Belmont Park when she comes to town for next Saturday's $300,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap.

Mandy's Gold, who is stabled at Delaware Park with trainer Michael Gorham, won the Grade 1 Ruffian Handicap by 2 1/4 lengths over You last September at Belmont. Mandy's Gold followed with a second-place finish behind Imperial Gesture in the Grade 1 Beldame three weeks later.

This year, Mandy's Gold, a 5-year-old owned by Steeplechase Farm, won a Gulfstream Park allowance race and the Grade 3 Pimlico Distaff Handicap, where she defeated Grade 1 winner Summer Colony by a neck on May 16.

"She is definitely as strong and maybe a touch better than last year," Gorham said. "This race looks like an ideal spot for how well she is doing. She worked last Saturday at Delaware with the dogs up and really did it easy."

Mandy's Gold worked five furlongs in 1:00.60, the fastest of 32 works at the distance on June 7.

Gorham said Friday it was undecided who would ride Mandy's Gold. Jerry Bailey was her jockey in the Pimlico Distaff but is also the regular rider of Sightseek, who is among the probables for the Ogden Phipps.

A small field seems likely for the 1 1/16-mile Ogden Phipps. Besides Mandy's Gold and Sightseek, Smok'n Frolic and Take Charge Lady are the other fillies under consideration.

'Anticipation' on target for U.N.

Grade 1 winner With Anticipation, who ran an uncharacteristically poor race when he finished last in the Manhattan Handicap on Belmont Stakes day, exited the race in good shape, according to his trainer, Jonathan Sheppard.

Sheppard blamed the soft turf course for the dismal performance.

"I told Pat [Day] in the paddock, I was 90 percent sure he would not run any good," Sheppard said. "I've always had reservations about running him on softer ground, but this race was part of his program and if we didn't run, we would have had to play catch up."

With Anticipation, an 8-year-old gelding, is scheduled to run next in the Grade 1 United Nations Handicap at Monmouth Park on July 5. Last year, With Anticipation won the United Nations and beat Denon, the winner of this year's Manhattan.

True Direction likely for Moseley

If trainer Carlos Morales is able to work True Direction over the weekend at Belmont, the next start for the horse likely will be the $200,000 James B. Moseley Breeders' Cup Handicap at Suffolk Downs next Saturday.

Morales said he would like to run in the Moseley and then back in the $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder on July 12.

In his first start since winning the Fall Highweight at Aqueduct in November, True Direction nearly equaled Artax's six-furlong track record in a Belmont allowance race on May 24. True Direction's final time was 1:07.86. He earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 116.

Morales decided against running True Direction in the True North Breeders' Cup Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day because it was too quick of a turnaround.

"He's one of these kind of horses that needs time in between races," Morales said. "If he ran at Suffolk, he would have 21 days to the Calder race. He's doing so good right now, if I can work him on a good track this weekend, I would like to run at Suffolk."

Rain hurts twilight programs

Rain has plagued three of the five twilight racing programs at the meet, including the most recent one on Friday.

According to New York Racing Association figures, which do not factor in numbers from the latest Friday card, total attendance slipped 4 percent compared with the first four twilight cards run in 2002. Total ontrack wagering on Belmont's races dropped 15 percent to $3,769,178.

Belmont's total commingled handle, including wagering on incoming simulcasts, rose by $149,798 to $41,293,301.

Bill Nader, NYRA's senior vice president, said the sunset cards are a useful marketing tool, as well as a boon to simulcast business.

"If we have the good fortune to have good weather, [twilight racing] allows us the opportunity to introduce more people to the sport," Nader said. "It's also good business via our simulcast numbers. I don't think that we could post those numbers with a one o'clock post."

Sunset racing will continue through the end of the meet, with the exception of July 4, when the first post is 1 p.m.