07/29/2001 12:00AM

Reine de Romance takes San Clemente


DEL MAR, Calif. - Reine de Romance got a chance to prove herself on the dirt this past winter. All she did was get hot and bothered. So trainer Jenine Sahadi backed off and pointed for a summer grass campaign, the fruits of which are starting to be realized.

Reine de Romance on Sunday won for the third time in her last four starts, and got her first graded stakes victory, when she rallied boldly under jockey Eddie Delahoussaye to take the Grade 2, $150,000 San Clemente Handicap for 3-year-old fillies at Del Mar. Reine de Romance pulled clear late to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Gabriellina Giof, with 7-5 favorite La Vida Loca another neck back in third.

As the fourth choice in the eight-horse field, Reine de Romance paid $13.20 after covering one mile on firm turf in 1:34.88. She has now won three times in nine starts, and is 3 for 7 since being acquired last fall by Gary Barber and the Team Valor syndicate that is headed by Barry Irwin and Jeff Siegel.

"She's been a project," said Sahadi, who trained 2000 Santa Anita Derby winner The Deputy for Barber and Team Valor. "We tried her on the dirt, but she got fried. Dirt racing requires more speed, and she ended up more speed crazy than she needs to be. We decided to back off and wait for turf."

Sahadi said she trains Reine de Romance with a light touch. "We pony her, and work her slowly," Sahadi said. "When she gallops, I tell the exercise rider just to turn her loose at the quarter pole."

"Eddie," Sahadi added, referring to Delahoussaye, "has done a tremendous job getting her to relax and settle."