01/20/2002 1:00AM

Affluent victorious in El Encino


ARCADIA, Calif. - Affluent was floated wide on the first turn, was caught in a box entering the stretch, and had a narrow hole grow tighter when she tried to squeeze through in the final furlong. None of that, though, could prevent her and jockey Eddie Delahoussaye from bravely rallying to capture Sunday's Grade 2, $150,000 El Encino Stakes at Santa Anita.

Affluent got up in the very last jump of the 1 1/16-mile race to beat pacesetting Royally Chosen by a nose. Sea Reel was another five lengths back in third, with second choice Love At Noon fourth in the field of six.

The victory gave the versatile Affluent the first two legs of the La Canada Series, for 4-year-old fillies. She captured the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes going seven furlongs on Dec. 29, and will go for a sweep of the series in the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 9. The only two fillies to have swept the series are Taisez Vous in 1978 and Mitterand in 1985.

Affluent covered 1 1/16 miles on a fast main track in 1:42.60 and paid $3.80 to win as the odds-on favorite. Ron McAnally trains Affluent for Jan Whitham, who also bred Affluent. The daughter of Affirmed has now won six times in 12 starts.

The victory was most deserved. Affluent was floated four paths wide on the first turn. Delahoussaye wanted to keep Affluent outside horses heading into the final turn, but said the leaders were spread so far wide in front of him that his best option was to go inside. "Everybody was looking out for me," he said.

Affluent, saving ground on the final turn, had nowhere to go a quarter-mile out. A narrow path developed along the rail, no wider than Affluent. Delahoussaye sent her in there, and Affluent never flinched. Alex Solis, on Royally Chosen, rode tight yet clean. He put his filly right alongside Affluent, and Solis even leaned to his left in another attempt to intimidate Affluent, but Affluent would not waver.

"I thought I got there. My judgment's still pretty good," the 50-year-old Delahoussaye said, laughing.