08/14/2002 11:00PM

A B Noodle has to try her elders

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - When only three rivals signed up to challenge in a stakes for 3-year-old fillies last weekend at the Bay Meadows Fair, A B Noodle's fate was sealed.

The Floral Fiesta Stakes was canceled, and A B Noodle must now take on older fillies and mares in Saturday's $40,000-added Lady Morvich Handicap.

A stakes-winning 3-year-old filly, A B Noodle will break from post 5 when she takes on seven older rivals in the 1 1/16-mile turf race.

A B Noodle, winner of the Bay Meadows Oaks over the Longden Turf Course here on May 26, has seen two straight northern California stakes races for 3-year-old fillies fail to fill, and trainer Chuck Jenda isn't thrilled about taking on older horses.

"It seems like it wasn't that many years ago that 3-year-olds wouldn't meet older until October or November," Jenda said. "And then the 3-year-olds would have their lunches handed to them by the veteran handicap horses.

"I don't think anybody likes to go against older this early in the season. It's a new wrinkle because it's tougher to fill races with our declining horse population, but I don't think it's good. I think you ought to be getting 15 pounds. Sometimes you don't have a lot of choices."

A B Noodle gets in at 114 pounds, five less than highweight Lindsay Jean, who won the Palo Alto Handicap on May 9 in her last start over the course.

A B Noodle probably faced tougher competition in her last start than she will meet Saturday. She set the pace in the $500,000 American Oaks won by Megahertz after a disqualification of Dublino at Hollywood Park on July 6.

She led through the first mile of the 1 1/4-mile race before finally finishing 11th in the field of 14.

While Saturday's runners may not have the glittering credentials of some of the fillies in the Hollywood Park race, A B Noodle faces a tough test nonetheless.

Highweight Lindsay Jean has won two of her three starts over the course, including the Palo Alto.

Kalatiara, who gets in at 117, won the Grade 3 Royal Heroine at Hollywood Park last summer.

Monrow, who gets in at 116, has won 5 of 6 starts over the course, her lone loss coming when she was fifth behind Lindsay Jean in the Palo Alto.

Miss Terasita was second in the Luther Burbank Handicap at Santa Rosa in her last start and has won two straight over the course. She gets in at 114, the same as A B Noodle.

Catz (116), Pheiffer (114), and I'm a Lil Princess (113) round out the field.

* The California State Fair has increased purses on lower claiming and allowance-level races for its upcoming meet to match the increases that will be offered by Bay Meadows at its fall meeting. The two meets overlap four days. The new purse minimum for the State Fair, which runs from Aug. 21-Sept. 2, will be $9,000.