01/01/2002 12:00AM

Paga closes out 2001 with Monrovia score

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Paga's workmanlike win Monday in the Grade 3 Monrovia Handicap at Santa Anita established the South American mare as a potential star for the year 2002. Plagued by foot problems that prevented her from starting since late September, Paga won the "about" six and a half-furlong turf race by a length and a quarter over Twin Set. It was a half-length back to longshot third-place finisher Impeachable.

The win by Paga was the first of the meet for jockey Mike Smith, and the sixth from nine career starts for Paga. Purchased in Argentina by R.D. Hubbard and Ed Allred, Paga has made three starts in this country for trainer Richard Mandella. She won the Osunitas Handicap in August at Del Mar, and finished third in a Grade 3 at the Meadowlands.

Mandella said Paga is likely to run next in the Grade 2 Buena Vista Handicap, a one-mile turf race Feb. 18. Paga returned $6.60 and completed the $118,150 Monrovia in 1:15.09 over a firm course that has produced slow times since recent rains.

Also-rans in 13-runner Monrovia included Verruma, the Grade 2 Dahlia winner who finishied fourth; and Gabriellina Giof, a graded stakes-placed 3-year-old who finished eighth. Honesty Fair, a well-regarded English import making her U.S. debut, failed to reach contention and beat two runners.