04/05/2003 12:00AM

Heat Haze returns Valdivia's confidence

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Heat Haze gave her backers a few anxious moments in Saturday's $110,000 Las Cienegas Handicap at Santa Anita, but her jockey, Jose Valdivia Jr., was never worried.

Racing behind several fillies and mares in early stretch, Heat Haze rallied wide when the field crossed over the dirt and onto the main turf course, found space between rivals, and won the hillside turf sprint for fillies and mares by a convincing three lengths.

"I was in the perfect spot," Valdivia said. "Once we crossed the dirt, I made a straight line and got through. She was much the best."

Heat Haze ($7.60) ran about 6 1/2 furlongs on turf in 1:13.11.

Heat Haze was last of eight early, well behind Icantgoforthat, who set an early pace of 22.09 and 44.56 seconds on the hillside portion of the course. Sent off at 42-1, Icantgoforthat kept her lead into the stretch, but could not hold off Heat Haze.

Trainer Steve Knapp said Icantgoforthat lost a shoe during the race. Despite the mishap, she finished second, a head in front of Paga, the 5-2 favorite, who was followed by Secret Garden, Embassy Belle, I'm the Business, Brocky's Dream, and Repository.

Heat Haze races for Juddmonte Farms and trainer Bobby Frankel. A 4-year-old, Heat Haze has won 4 of 8 starts and $148,238.

A stakes winner in France last year, Heat Haze is a half-sister to Banks Hill, the 2001 Eclipse Award winner as the nation's outstanding turf female.