01/16/2005 12:00AM

Girl Warrior takes El Encino

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BENOIT PHOTO
Girl Warrior and jockey Victor Espinoza, inside, hold off A.P. Adventure and Rene Douglas to win the Grade II, $150,000 El Encino Stakes on Sunday at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif.-The transatlantic experiment is working for Girl Warrior.

Brought to California from England last summer after a disappointing start to her career on turf, Girl Warrior scored her first stakes win in Sunday's $150,000 at Santa Anita.

The win marked her third victory in four starts since switching surfaces.

To win the Grade 2 El Encino, Girl Warrior ($10.80) needed a little luck and a a well-timed ride from jockey Victor Espinoza.

Girl Warrior was kept on the rail to the final turn, moved into a challenging position inside in early stretch and fought off a determined challenge from 4-5 A.P. Adventure to win by a head.

"I thought that was the difference," trainer Neil Drysdale said. "In all fairness, we cut the corner and A.P. Adventure went around."

Girl Warrior ran 1 1-16 miles in 1:42.76. A.P. Adventure finished 2 1-2 lengths in front of Tarlow, who had the early lead in the field of seven 4-year-old fillies.

Owned by Anthony Speelman, Girl Warrior has won 3 of 8 starts and $148,416. She was winless in four starts in England before joining Drysdale's stable during the summer.

Both Girl Warrior and A.P. Adventure are expected to return for the $200,000 La Canada Stakes for 4-year-old fillies over 1 1-8 miles on Feb. 12.