02/13/2005 1:00AM

Miss Loren best in Santa Maria

Miss Loren (center) wins the Santa Maria Handicap by a nose on Sunday at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Much to the surprise of jockey Jose Valdivia, Jr., Miss Loren dragged herself into contention on the final turn of Sunday's $250,000 at Santa Anita.

"I was getting a dream run without asking my filly," Valdivia said. "On the turn, she took me up there. She kept tugging at me."

Miss Loren's aggressive behavior was the difference. Valdivia converted her move on the turn into a nose victory over 15-1 longshot Good Student after a stretch-long duel. Hollywood Story, the 3-1 favorite, finished a troubled third.

Hollywood Story was blocked on the final turn and steadied in the final furlong. The stewards conducted a five-minute inquiry into whether Good Student and Miss Loren drifted in through the stretch and prevented Hollywood Story from rallying along the rail. The order of finish was not changed.

Miss Loren ($12.40) finished 1 1-16 miles in 1:42.42. Owned by Llers Corp., she gave trainer Luis Seglin his first victory in a Grade 1 in the United States. Seglin has won Group 1 races in his native Argentina.

Miss Loren, 7, was bred in Argentina where she was a Grade 1 winner. She has won 13 of 45 starts and $616,260.

The Santa Maria marked her third U.S. stakes win. Seglin said the key to her winning is for a rider to keep a tight hold.

"She has to run against the bit all the time," Seglin said. "The dirt hitting her is good. It makes her angry."