03/08/2002 1:00AM

Love at Noon fails at 2-5, retires


ARCADIA, Calif. - A suspensory injury has ended the career of the 4-year-old stakes filly Love at Noon, who won 2 of 7 races and set a track record at Churchill Downs for owner Mike Pegram and trainer Bob Baffert.

Wednesday at Santa Anita, Love at Noon finished off the board at 2-5 in a two-other-than allowance sprint, leading to massive show payoffs on three other runners. Of the $339,653 wagered to show, $308,765 was on Love at Noon. The imbalance led to show payoffs of $17.20, $23, and $36.40 in the five-horse field.

"I knew it had to be something, she should have destroyed that field," Baffert said. "That guy's $300,000 should have been safe."

According to Baffert, Love at Noon has been retired from racing, and will be bred. No stallion has been chosen for Love at Noon, who set a Churchill Downs track record last May 5 (Kentucky Derby Day) for 6 1/2 furlongs of 1:14.34. She subsequently finished second in the Grade 3 Dogwood at Churchill; second in the Grade 2 Princess at Hollywood Park; and third in the Grade 1 La Brea at Santa Anita.

Las Cienegas next for Penny Marie

Penny Marie's nose victory Thursday in the $82,450 Winter Solstice Stakes ended a 31-race drought for trainer Bob Hess Jr. and put the 6-year-old mare on target for the Grade 3 Las Cienegas Handicap on April 7. Starting for the first time since May, Penny Marie held off the rally of runner-up Twin Set, who was three-quarters of a length in front of third-place finisher Queen of Wilshire. Queen of Wilshire was disqualified to fourth when stewards ruled she interfered with fourth-place finisher La Ronge. Paga, the 7-5 favorite, finished sixth.

Penny Marie ($14.40), who is now 7 for 14 lifetime, was one of four winners on the card ridden by Kent Desormeaux. She was timed in 1:13.20 for 6 1/2 furlongs on turf.

Penny Marie cooled out fine, and Friday morning Hess was making plans for her next start. "Yesterday was a prep for the Las Cienegas; we didn't really overdo her training, and she needs to win a graded stakes for her value."

Penny Marie is a two-time stakes winner, but has not won a graded stakes.

Paga came out of the Winter Solstice in good shape, and trainer Richard Mandella could offer no alibi for her disappointing sixth-place finish. Paga had missed a recent start with a quarter crack, but the setback was believed minor. Mandella said her foot was fine the morning after the race.

Five starters commit to San Felipe

Siphonic heads a field of at least five 3-year-olds taking shape for the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes on March 17. Siphonic, winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity, will be starting for the first time since his second-place finish Jan. 19 in the Grade 3 Santa Catalina. Siphonic, trained by David Hofmans, will be the only graded stakes winner in the field.

Others expected are Sunday Break, impressive allowance winner Feb. 22 for trainer Neil Drysdale; and U S S Tinosa, who sipped from northern California for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and scored a 4 1/2-length win Feb. 8 in the Sham Stakes. Baffert will start Puerto Banus in the San Felipe, and said Friday that Mountain Rage will point for a turf campaign.

Shah Jehan, who set the pace before tiring to last in the Sham, will make his second U.S. start in the San Felipe. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said, "This will be the acid test, but I think I have a better horse than people think."

Possible starters include maiden winner Tracemark or Royal Moro from the Craig Dollase barn, and California-bred maiden winner Highly Suspect.

Alexine experiments on dirt

Mandella, who developed Redattore from graded stakes winner on turf to graded stakes winner on dirt, will attempt a similar feat Sunday with a 6-year-old mare. Alexine has never raced on the main track, but recent workouts give Mandella hope she will fare well in the Santa Margarita Handicap. "I've always wanted to try her on dirt, and the way she trains, who knows?" he said.

Alexine has won 7 of 17, and Mandella said a recent dirt workout was outstanding. "Brice [Blanc] worked her, and she went 22-and-3 the the last quarter, so we'll give it a try."

Alexine's most recent effort was a third-place finish in a Grade 3 turf race at Golden Gate in which there was no pace for her to launch her closing kick.

Mandella said Redattore is nearing a return to the track after a foot problem knocked the San Antonio Handicap winner out of the Dubai World Cup. Kudos, third-place finisher in the Santa Anita Handicap, will run next in either the Grade 2, $150,000 San Bernardino Handicap on April 6 at Santa Anita or the Grade 1, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap the same day. Mandella said Straight Flush will run Saturday in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap. Crazy Ensign will run March 23 in the Grade 2 Santa Ana Handicap. Cagney will train up to the Grade 1 San Juan Capistrano Handicap on closing day, April 21.

* The Thoroughbred Owners of California has extended the contract of TOC president John Van de Kamp through 2005. Van de Kamp, former California Attorney General and District Attorney of Los Angeles County, has served as TOC president since 1996.

* Squirtle Squirt worked five furlongs in 1:01.40, breezing, Friday at Hollywood Park. His next scheduled start is the Grade 1 Carter Handicap on April 13 at Aqueduct. Squirtle Squirt finished second behind Snow Ridge in the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Handicap in his last start. Squirtle Squirt will have a chance to even the score in the Carter. Snow Ridge also is pointing for that race.