07/10/2003 12:00AM

Two fillies to work homecourt edge

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Mandy's Gold and Devon Rose, the top two locally based prospects for the July 20 Delaware Handicap, have the advantage of familiarity with the sometimes quirky dirt surface at Delaware Park. Whether that's enough to overcome such top-class older females as Take Charge Lady and Summer Colony going 1 1/4 miles, however, remains to be seen.

But at this point, trainers Mike Gorham and Allen Iwinski will take any little edge they can get in the Grade 2 race, worth $750,000.

"I think it's a big advantage," said Gorham, whose mare Mandy's Gold has been chasing some of the best distance filly and mares in the country, including Sightseek and Azeri. "This track can be tough on shippers. Depending on the horse, it can be tough to get over it for the first time."

Iwinski likes the fact 4-year-old Devon Rose has run well at Delaware, where she is 3 for 3 this season, but admits he's uncertain whether that's enough to overcome a big rise in class for his filly.

"Lots of horses either really take to this track or they do not," Iwinski said. "The competition is much stiffer, so she is at a disadvantage in that regard, but she has a little extra help from the track.

"Let's put it this way. If we are going to hook these kind of horses I would rather do it here as opposed to anywhere else."

As of midweek, there were nine probables for the Delaware Handicap. In addition to Mandy's Gold and Devon Rose, the list includes Take Charge Lady, Summer Colony, Jaramar Rain, Printemps, Shiny Sheet, Sister Girl Blues, and Wild Spirit. Weights will be released Saturday.

Neither Mandy's Gold nor Devon Rose has ever raced 1 1/4 miles. Their pedigrees also don't indicate they are bred to run that far. Gorham and Iwinski, however, aren't that worried about the distance.

"The pace will make the race, so I am not really concerned about the mile and a quarter as I am about the pace," said Gorham.

Mandy's Gold finished second in the nine-furlong Beldame at Belmont last year, but was a distant fifth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at the same distance, the two longest races of her career.

"If the race sets up with a good pace, she has always been able to rate," he said. "If she can get a good spot, pace is the key. She has never really quit in any of her races at any distance."

Iwinski said that pace is the key to Devon Rose's chances.

"I don't think a mile and a quarter will be her problem," he said. "Again, the problem is going to be the competition. That will be the hardest thing to overcome."

Gorham said he believes the most recent performance by Mandy's Gold, a distant third in the Ogden Phipps Handicap, can be dismissed.

"In the gate, she was acting up a little bit and right before they sprung it, she threw her head in the air," he said. "She hopped out of the gate and lunged leaving. By the time she got straightened out, they were three or four [lengths] in front of her on a real speed-favoring track. She tried, but she just was not closing on anybody."

Mandy's Gold appears to be in top shape, based on a best-of-15 five-furlong move last week in 1:00.60. "She worked just the way we wanted and she galloped out real strong," Gorham said.

Devon Rose, whose Beyer Speed Figures have steadily risen from a 77 on turf in February to a 101 in her most recent win, in the Obeah Handicap, has a bit of history in her favor. Since the Obeah was first run in 1996, four horses have come out of the race to hit the board in the Delaware Handicap, including longshot winners Irving's Baby (18-1 in 2001) and Power Play (28-1 in 1997). Last year, Your Out won the Obeah and finished a nose behind Summer Colony in the Delaware Handicap.

Wide-open turf stakes

A full field of 12 3-year-old fillies, many of whom are lightly raced on turf, will contest the $55,000 Julie Snellings Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on turf. The race is so wide open that no horse is listed lower than 9-2 on the track's morning line.

The prime contenders include Little Miss Pamela, winner of a restricted stakes at Colonial Downs last month; Bella Tusa, fifth but beaten only three lengths in the Gaviola at Belmont on July 2; and A Queen's Smile, winner of three of her last four starts on grass.