01/29/2004 1:00AM

Curbing anxiety will help 'Noodle'


ALBANY, Calif. - Trainer Chuck Jenda will never confuse A B Noodle with Brown Bess, his champion female turf horse of 1989.

But he would be happy to pose with A B Noodle in the Golden Gate Fields' winner's circle after Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Brown Bess Handicap.

A B Noodle, coming off an impressive victory in a stakes-quality allowance race on Jan. 3, figures to be one of the favorites in the 1 1/16-mile turf race, which will have a field of 11 fillies and mares and will be part of the initial Magna 5, a national pick five.

Irish-bred Red Rioja, who won her U.S. debut at Del Mar last September and then finished fifth in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon, makes her first start since Oct. 15 and may wind up the favorite. The improving Ilha Grande will also be a strong contender on a soft turf course.

But A B Noodle is the one everyone will have to catch, although she will have to contend with the speedy Hippogator early in the race.

Brown Bess was a real professional, according to Jenda.

"Brown Bess was a trooper," Jenda said. "You could lead her over to the track with a rubber band, and she'd be right on your hip. She was like a dairy cow to saddle, but once you pointed her to the starting gate, she wanted to go."

A B Noodle wants to go, too, but she's ready to race on the walk over from the barn. She often gets too wound up in the paddock and post parade.

"She knows she's going to run," Jenda said. "She wants to get it on. I think she's just anxious."

A B Noodle won four of eight starts as a 3-year-old in 2002, but Jenda stopped on her because she was getting so worked up before races. She was gone seven months but still acted up when she returned to the races and was winless in six starts last year as a 4-year-old.

"Two weeks ahead of the race, we take her to the paddock every day and the week of the race every other day," Jenda said. "Every day, she goes to the paddock before she works and sometimes again at 10 z(a.m.) when works are over. Most normal older horses you don't school ever, but if we would not do it with her, she probably wouldn't race. She'd shake like a leaf and sweat bullets."

Jenda is nothing if not patient.

"You know if they've got that much talent, you have to give them a chance," he said. "We just do it over and over and over again, many, many, many times in the paddock."

A B Noodle was better in the post parade last time.

"Maybe she's getting a little wiser," Jenda said.

If she is, she could be tough to beat.