03/31/2002 12:00AM

Alexine best in Santa Lucia


ARCADIA, Calif.-Already accomplished on turf, Alexine won her first stakes on the main track in Sunday's restricted $82,725 Santa Lucia Handicap at Santa Anita.

"It's nice to be versatile," trainer Richard Mandella said.

Ridden by Gary Stevens, Alexine ($4.80) needed a half-mile rally to wear down Cashmina, a determined pacesetter.

Alexine took the lead in the final 50 yards and won by a half-length, finishing 1 1-16 miles in 1:42.52. Cashmina finished 3 1-2 lengths in front of De Goddaughter, who was followed by Sea Reel, Critikola, Kalatiara and Stormy Society. La Ronge was scratched on Sunday morning.

Alexine was as many as eight lengths behind Cashmina on the first turn.

Cashmina, making her stakes debut for Jerry and Ann Moss and trainer John Shirreffs, set fractions of 23.23 and 46.32 seconds under Eddie Delahoussaye.

She shook off Stormy Society and De Goddaughter to take a two length lead on the final turn.

Alexine was urged on the backstretch and steadily made up ground through the final three furlongs. She was a clear second inside the eighth pole, but needed the entire stretch to catch the frontrunner.

"We had to hope there was enough pace," Mandella said. "Cashmima was reluctant to stop. I was wondering if we'd catch her. I think that filly that was on the lead may end up a nice filly."

Alexine has won four stakes on turf, including a Group 1 in her native Argentina in 1999. Owned by a partnership, she has won 8 of 19 starts and $404,911.