06/05/2002 11:00PM

Mandy's Gold eyes graded win

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CHICAGO - It was bad enough when they took Mandy's Gold's graded stakes win away from her last spring. To make matters worse, Mandy's Gold had to be put away for eight months after that, and she still hasn't gotten her graded stakes win.

That situation can be rectified Saturday at Arlington when Mandy's Gold faces a short field in the Grade 3 Chicago Breeders' Cup, a seven-furlong sprint for fillies and mares, 3-years-old and up. The stakes is part of an 11-race card that includes separate pool wagering on the Belmont Stakes.

Mandy's Gold did something very few horses do - she won the first five starts of her career. But in the final race of that sequence, the Grade 3 Comely Stakes last April at Aqueduct, Mandy's Gold got entangled with Two Item Limit at the top of the stretch and wound up being disqualified and placed second.

"That was tough," said Michael Gorham, who trains Mandy's Gold for owner Steeplechase Farm. "It was fifty-fifty."

It was no small deal, either. A graded stakes win boosts a filly's residual value as a broodmare by several levels, and Mandy's Gold surely was good enough to win one. But after the Comely, Mandy's Gold didn't start again until January.

"We wanted to bring her back at Saratoga," Gorham said, "but she had a bunch of minor setbacks. Finally, we just decided to wait until Gulfstream."

Mandy's Gold was back, but her luck didn't get any better this year. First, she ran into Raging Fever, arguably the second-best filly sprinter on the East Coast. Then, in a five-furlong race, she lost by a neck to a mare that specializes in abbreviated dashes. Add to the list another tough trip, a racetrack she didn't handle, and Mandy's Gold had lost the first four starts of her 2002 campaign.

Finally, she broke through, winning the May 25 My Juliet Stakes at Philadelphia Park by more than three lengths. Now, Mandy's Gold must show she has the mettle to withstand a long van ride and produce a top effort on only two weeks' rest.

On form, Mandy's Gold should win the Chicago BC. Extended View, sharp and improving, probably is the speed of the field for owner-trainer Louie Roussel, but she is unproven in stakes racing and at seven furlongs.

Mandy's Gold should press her and go past in the stretch, but could be challenged late by Caressing.

Caressing is more than a year removed from her last seven-furlong start, but that race produced a win in the Grade 3 La Troienne.

Cat and the Hat, an improving filly trained by Carl Nafzger, and Applesolutely, a turf route horse trying something completely new, have upset potential.

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