05/09/2004 11:00PM

Jenda's latest project may be his biggest success


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Trainer Chuck Jenda has been to the mountaintop.

In 1989, Brown Bess blossomed under his care and became the only northern California-based Eclipse Award winner when she was voted the nation's top female turf runner.

But as good a job as Jenda did with Brown Bess, a multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire, he may be doing even better with A B Noodle, who scored her first graded-stakes victory Saturday in the Grade 3 Yerba Buena Handicap.

"Brown Bess, anybody could have trained," Jenda said. "Good horses don't require a lot of work. There's not a lot of tweaking to do."

A B Noodle is very talented, but she's also a handful and has needed more than a gentle tweak. She's made countless morning visits to the paddock, as Jenda and his crew have tried to calm her down.

"She was always high-strung, and once she raced, it began to get even worse," Jenda said.

A B Noodle won three stakes as a 3-year-old in 2002, even defeating the older Lindsay Jean to win the Lady Morovich. She also set the pace into the stretch of the first American Oaks at Hollywood Park, which was won by Megahertz on a disqualification.

Jenda finally called a halt to A B Noodle's campaign after a second-place finish to Halo Tyra in the Palo Alto Handicap in October 2002.

Jenda was concerned, he would say later, about how nervous she was getting in the paddock before races, shivering, shaking, and sweating.

A B Noodle returned to the races May 31, 2003, but was winless and had only one second in six tries as a 4-year-old.

She has now won 3 of 5 starts this year, finishing third in the other two races, including a third in the Grade 3 Brown Bess at Golden Gate Fields.

Saturday's graded stakes win left Jenda feeling as if he had won a Grade 1.

"It's more rewarding for the people back here who have done the actual work," Jenda said, referring to his crew. "Everybody's spent a lot of time with her, like her groom, Flora Trujillo, and Victor Trujillo, my assistant, who gets on her most mornings. We were ready for a group hug after she won."

In the Yerba Buena, A B Noodle was antsy in the paddock, but Jenda said he didn't mind that.

"She was anxious, but she never got really heated up and nervous," he said.

A B Noodle broke smoothly for a change and was able to make the lead easily. It was obvious that jockey Joe Castro had a lot of horse, so Roberto Gonzalez took back a bit with Hippogator, who had set the pace when the two met in the Miss America last month.

A B Noodle picked up the pace in the third quarter and threw down a 23-and-change fourth quarter in the about 1 1/8-mile turf race, winning in 1:46.66 by three lengths over Marwood.

"It all has to do with pace," Jenda said. "She's so much more relaxed on the lead by herself. They gave her the lead."

Stocks Are Rising drops in class

A pair of $25,000 claimers, a six-furlong sprint for older horses and a one-mile turf test for 3-year-olds, top the Wednesday Bay Meadows card.

Stocks Are Rising looks tough in the sprint, as he drops a notch for his third start following a two-month freshener. Stocks Are Rising is equally adept on the lead or as a stalker and is drawn well outside his primary pace rival, Relentless Seller, who breaks from the rail.

Aza, claimed for $25,000 when he was second in a similar spot last month, will use his speed from the rail and should be tough to beat in the route race.

* Eight 3-year-old fillies were nominated to Saturday's $55,000-added San Jose Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. Heavenly Humor, winner of the six-furlong Miss California at Golden Gate Fields, and stakes-placed entrymate Secret Corsage could be the ones to beat. Nicole and Ben, who has placed in two Cal-bred stakes, is the only other stakes-placed runner nominated.