03/22/2003 1:00AM

Noches de Rosa upsets Santa Ana

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ARCADIA, Calif. - A slow pace allowed the frontrunning Noches de Rosa to pull an upset in Saturday's $150,000 Santa Ana Handicap and avoid the trouble the plagued the heavily favored Megahertz.

Scoring her first graded stakes win since arriving from South America last year, Noches de Rosa ran 1 1-8 miles on turf in 1:48.31. Ridden by Mike Smith, Noches de Rosa finished a half-length in front of Garden in the Rain, who finished a neck in front of Megahertz, the even-money favorite.

It could be easily argued that Megahertz was best. She was stalking the pace on the final turn when jockey Alex Solis was forced to check his mount in traffic. Megahertz quickly recovered to launch a wide rally in early stretch, but could not reach the winner. Magic Mission finished fourth, followed by Dancing, Glia, Snowflake, and Splendeur.

Noches de Rosa set an early pace of 24.92 and 50.22 seconds, leading by 1 1-2 lengths on the backstretch. The lead was narrowed to a length on the final turn when Magic Mission moved closer, but Noches de Rosa outrun her rivals in the stretch.

Trained by Richard Mandella for Gerald Ford, the Chilean-bred Noches de Rosa was a Group 1 winner in South America in 2001. A 5-year-old, she has won 7 of 18 starts and $239,572.

*King Robyn, who won an $80,000 claiming race in January, scored his first stakes win in Saturday's $80,700 San Pedro Stakes for 3-year-olds.

Ridden by Alex Solis for red-hot trainer Jeff Mullins, King Robyn ran 6 1-2 furlongs in 1:15.21, holding off a sustained rally from 18-1 Truckle Feature. Eye of the Tiger finished third, followed by Indian Express, Rojo Toro and Only the Best. Jimmy O, Our Bobby V., and Red Apache were scratched on Saturday morning.

King Robyn was always near the front, one of four horses disputing the pace on the backstretch through a rapid pace of 21.38 and 43.56 seconds. Racing along the inside, King Robyn took the lead from Truckle Feature and Rojo Toro on the turn and won by a half-length.

"We took the blinkers off today and that helped," Mullins said. "He was able to reserve a little for the end."

Owned by Cornejo Racing, King Robyn has won 5 of 11 starts and $159,250. A gelding, he raced in Florida last year, winning 3 of 8 starts. King Robyn has not been worse than second in three California starts, including a runner-up in the Baldwin Stakes on turf on Feb. 23.