08/09/2001 12:00AM

Paga powers to victory in Osunitas


DEL MAR, Calif. - Paga, a filly from Argentina, and jockey Mike Smith earned their first stakes win of 2001 in California in Wednesday's restricted $81,175 Osunitas Handicap at Del Mar.

Paga ($7.60) ran 1 1/16 miles on turf in 1:41.06, holding off a late rally from La Ronge. A 4-year-old, Paga was a multiple stakes winner in Argentina last year.

Smith, a two-time Eclipse Award winner as the nation's top jockey, won his first stakes since relocating from the East in May.

Trained by Richard Mandella for Ed Allred and R.D. Hubbard, Paga led throughout, tracked by Minor Details, who was ridden by Victor Espinoza.

"She responds to everything you do," Smith said. "She relaxed well. Victor stayed on us and kept us honest."

Paga led by a head on the final turn, fought off Minor Details and Dianehill in early stretch and held off La Ronge to win by a neck.

"I know the margin wasn't a lot but she never got a breather," Smith said. "She fights, too, that's a plus."

La Ronge finished a length in front of Dianehill in the field of eight.

The Osunitas was Mandella's third stakes win of the Del Mar meeting. He said the Atto Mile against males at Woodbine on Sept. 9 is a possibility for Paga.