11/02/2004 12:00AM

Pragmatico in for price after two wins


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - What do you do with a 6-year-old allowance-class gelding who is on a roll? The answer for trainer Gary Mandella is simple - "Put him right back in for the tag."

scored his second consecutive allowance win last month at Santa Anita in a two-other-than allowance on the hillside turf. Mandella could have waited for a three-other-than, but chose to run him at the same level Thursday at Hollywood Park in an N2X/optional $62,500 claiming race. Pragmatico is in for the claiming price.

"He's going to be 7 next year, so we might as well try to win as many races as we can," Mandella said.

Pragmatico is the top contender in the first allowance Thursday. He races 5 1/2 furlongs against four rivals in race 2.

Front-runners Slew's Prince, Shadow of Illinois, and The Griff ensure pace, while Pragmatico and Lucky Pulpit will rally from behind. The race is perfect for Pragmatico, who has won nine of 34 and is shortening up after winning at 6 1/2 furlongs last out.

"I actually was worried six and a half was too far for him," Mandella admitted. It wasn't. Jose Valdivia rides the 6-year-old gelding.

Slew's Prince was the beaten favorite in the race Pragmatico won last time, and the shorter distance Thursday helps his chances.

Slew's Prince is trained by Cliff Sise, who also entered Lucky Pulpit. A 3-year-old who has not raced since setting the pace and finishing ninth in the Del Mar Derby, Lucky Pulpit has won sprinting, and will be finishing fast under Gary Stevens.

In race 7, six fillies and mares race 1 1/16 miles on dirt in a two-other-than allowance. Bruce Headley-trained Lucky in Love will set the pace, and Jeff Mullins-trained Gold Player will rally from behind. Those two are leading contenders in a race that includes Woodlass, Lady Thatcher, Awesome Lady, and Maestria.

The only throwout is Maestria, who ran nowhere as a 52-1 longshot in her U.S. debut. If front-runner Lucky in Love shakes loose from Awesome Lady, she could win. Otherwise, late-runners Gold Player, Woodlass, or Lady Thatcher have a chance to rally for the win.

One of the most interesting races on the card is race 6, a mile turf race for 2-year-old maidens. Neil Drysdale is expected to have a big meet with 2-year-olds, and his second-time starter Petrus will be one of the favorites after a runner-up finish in his debut. Quick Thinking is expected to improve second time out for Bobby Frankel.