11/11/2006 1:00AM

Bend a Little wins Hermosa Beach


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Trainer Christophe Clement sent six horses to Hollywood Park for its fall meeting, and the decision paid its first dividends on Saturday when Bend a Little scored a 9-1 upset victory in the $61,800 Hermosa Beach Handicap for older female turf runners.

Bend a Little ($20.60), fifth in the six-horse field for the first mile of the 1 1/2-mile race, rallied to take the lead at mid-stretch under jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. and easily held off Aubonne to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Trade Only finished another 1 1/2 lengths back in third. Naughty Rafaela, the even-money favorite, was fifth.

Bend a Little was timed in 2:29.10 for 1 1/2 miles on firm turf.

"She loved the trip," said Arnaud Delacour, the Clement assistant who is overseeing the Hollywood Park string. "We thought she would go further than before."

Bend A Little, 5, is a daughter of Benny the Dip who was bred and is owned by Cynthia Knight. She had steadily worked her way through allowance company on the East Coast, winning five times in her previous 16 starts. She was 1 for 3 this year, her lone win coming in a fourth-level allowance at Delaware going a mile. The Hermosa Beach was her first stakes victory.