12/31/2002 1:00AM

Lil Sister Stich takes Monrovia

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Lil Sister Stich stormed down the center of the course and got up in the final yards to beat Pina Colada by a head in a roughly run Grade 3, $114,700 Monrovia Handicap, the featured stake on the New Year's Eve card at Santa Anita.

Lil Sister Stich benefited by rallying on the outside in a hillside turf course race in which several horses on the inside were hampered by severe traffic. Lil Sister Stich had to survive a stewards's inquiry, which was launched to investigate the tight quarters she was in with I'm The Business crossing the dirt course.

The stewards let stand the result, giving Lil Sister Stich her fourth win in four tries on the hillside turf course. She was timed in 1:13.81 for about 6 1/2 furlongs on the firm course.

I'm the Business wound up third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Pina Colada. Miss Puzzle was fourth.

Laffit Pincay Jr. rode Lil Sister Stich for trainer Doug O'Neill. The victory was her eighth in 18 lifetime starts. Lil Sister Stich paid $17 to win.

Despite the fact that a full field of 12 ran in the race, Santa Anita management had the rails set 24 feet from their innermost position in the stretch, making for crowded and dangerous conditions. Bobby Frankel, the trainer of favored Rolly Polly, before the race decried that decision.

"Running 12 down the hill with the rail out? It's a joke," Frankel said. "It's not fair to the bettors or the horsemen."

Frankel's worst fears were realized. Rolly Polly, the even-money choice, ran into a roadblock at mid-stretch, as did Adoration. There simply were too many horses and not enough terrain. Rolly Polly wound up seventh.