01/12/2008 12:00AM

Not much separates this trio

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Dancin Candy, I'monmywayhome, and High in the Air finished within a length of one another when second, third, and fourth in an open first-level allowance race at Golden Gate Dec. 28, so the slightest change in form can make a big difference as the three knock heads again at Golden Gate on Monday. This time they run in a California-bred first-level allowance and must deal with four other rivals going 1 1/16 miles for a purse of $31,000.

Dancin Candy, trained by Bill McLean, seems to have found a home on the Tapeta track at Golden Gate. He was a non-factor sixth in his first try on it Nov. 9, but that came sprinting and he had much trouble at the start. He moved to a route and easily beat $16,000 claimers Nov. 28 and was second against $32,000 claimers here Dec. 9 prior to his runner-up effort Dec. 28. He's shown enough speed to get position and may rate a slight edge. Regular rider Roberto Gonzalez stays aboard.

I'monmywayhome rallied smartly to finish a neck behind Dancin Candy Dec. 28, and that race continued a string of good outings. His form soured last summer, but he took a couple months off and came back with two runner-up efforts, then won a sprint here Dec. 1 prior to his Dec. 28 outing. While he closed in his last two, he almost went wire to wire when second in a route here Nov. 7, so he's not just some one-dimensional closer. Luis Martinez has the mount again for Steve Specht.

High in the Air was right on the top pair's heels at the finish last time, but he actually lost a bit of ground in the final furlong. Owned and trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, he stalked the pace in that Dec. 28 meeting and was in front of the other two in midstretch. Mario Gutierrez rides again.

It's never a Northern California race without worrying about where Russell Baze ends up. He rides Southern California raider Mandate to Fly for Hollendorfer.

Mandate to Fly was most recently fifth in a turf route at Santa Anita at this level. He may appreciate the change of venue and what may be softer competition. It's worth noting, however, his two wins both came on the Fairplex bullring last September.