11/19/2003 1:00AM

Tougher foes for Gold Sphinx


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - In the weeks since Gold Sphinx won an allowance race on the undercard of the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita on Oct. 25, trainer Gary Mandella has become more enthusiastic about the performance.

His opinion is based not only on Gold Sphinx's 1 1/2-length win, but subsequent victories by second- and third-place finishers Six Numbers and Rock n Rosh, as well.

Gold Sphinx, a 4-year-old Storm Cat colt, returns in a $46,000 allowance race over 1 1/16 miles on turf Friday at Hollywood Park, a race that could lead to a stakes this winter for him.

"It's an easier spot than the Citation," Mandella said, referring to the $300,000 handicap Nov. 29.

The allowance race, which is the seventh race on an evening program, has drawn seven entrants, including White Buck, third in the Bien Bien Stakes here Nov. 11; the gritty Expresso Bay, who has won four times this year; and the English invader Tikkun.

"This should be the toughest horses he's run against," Mandella said.

Expresso Bay will be the leader. He has an admirable record, having won four of his eight starts this year, and was a game second Oct. 23 at Santa Anita.

Vacamonte, trained by Bobby Frankel, won an allowance race at Del Mar in August, but was fourth behind Expresso Bay on Oct. 23.

Gold Sphinx drew the rail and will be ridden by David Flores. Owned by Wertheimer Farm, Gold Sphinx was a disappointment in France, losing seven starts. In three starts for Mandella, Gold Sphinx has not been worse than second, winning a maiden race at Del Mar, finishing second by a nose in an allowance race at Santa Anita on Oct. 1, and winning Oct. 25.

In the Oct. 25 race, Gold Sphinx stalked the pace to early stretch, took the lead with a furlong remaining, and slowly drew clear. He finished a mile in a respectable 1:34.74.

Mandella considers Friday's race an important test for Gold Sphinx. In addition to taking a jump in conditions, Gold Sphinx will be making his first start at 1 1/16 miles. In France, he raced at between 5 1/2 furlongs and about a mile, with his best finish a neck loss July 2001.

"I'm not sure he doesn't have distance limitations," Mandella said. "If you're a little worried about distance, you better try 1 1/16 or 1 1/8 miles in allowance conditions rather than stakes."