10/08/2003 11:00PM

'Mango' could continue her climb


ARCADIA, Calif. - Roberto's Mango went from a nondescript claimer to a stakes winner when she was switched from dirt to turf last winter.

The remarkable turnaround of a filly who could have been claimed for $32,000 a year ago this week can continue Saturday, when she starts as the 118-pound highweight in the $100,000 Sen. Ken Maddy Handicap at Santa Anita.

"She's surprised me the way she's turned out," trainer Julio Canani said.

The switch to turf has made most of the difference.

Owned by the Lucky Ladies Stable of Elaine Gleason and Fay Mancuso, Roberto's Mango has won 4 of 7 starts on grass, a span highlighted by a victory in the Daisycutter Handicap over five furlongs at Del Mar on Aug. 1.

Canani has been pointing Roberto's Mango for the Ken Maddy and the California Cup Distaff on Nov. 8 since the Daisycutter. "I need to get a race," Canani said of the reason for running her in the Maddy.

Roberto's Mango resumed serious training in mid-September and impressed Canani when she worked five furlongs in 58.80 last Saturday. Since then, her routine has been very simple.

"For four or five days before she runs, I just jog her," he said. "She doesn't gallop. She doesn't need to do much."

The biggest danger to Roberto's Mango is Swiss Lake, who was second against females in the Daisycutter and second against males in the Green Flash Handicap, run at five furlongs on turf at Del Mar on Aug. 20. Trained by Kristin Mulhall, Swiss Lake is winless in four starts in the United States but has shown the ability to be effective from on or off the pace.

Plenty of speed is present in the Maddy's full field. Any for Love, second in an allowance race in January on the hillside course, and Icantgoforthat, the winner of the Survive Stakes on dirt that same month, are very quick.

Since the Survive, Icantgoforthat is winless in eight starts - a string of losses that includes a second to Heat Haze in the Las Cienegas Handicap on the hillside course in April. Icantgoforthat was seventh in the Daisycutter and third as the favorite in the Pio Pico Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs at Fairplex Park on Sept. 19.

Paga may have first run on the leaders. Trained by Richard Mandella, she won the Grade 3 Monrovia Handicap over this course in December 2001 but has made only three starts since.

Saturday, Paga returns from a six-month layoff caused by a splint bone injury.