02/12/2005 1:00AM

Sharp Lisa captures Las Virgenes

Sharp Lisa with Corey Nakatani up wins the Las Virgenes on Saturday at Santa Anita Park.

ARCADIA, Calif. - From the time Corey Nakatani first got on Sharp Lisa, he had wanted to get back on her. But because he had been regularly riding the best filly of this generation, Eclipse Award winner Sweet Catomine, those opportunities had rarely presented themselves.

On Saturday at Santa Anita, however, Nakatani and Sharp Lisa were reunited, and it felt so good. With Nakatani displaying poise under pressure and Sharp Lisa responding to a serious challenge, they re-rallied in the final sixteenth of a mile to capture the Grade 1, $250,000 .

Sharp Lisa ($3.20) was passed by Memorette at the top of the stretch, but she came back on to prevail by three-quarters of a length in 1:35.64 for one mile on a wet-fast track. Memorette finished six lengths in front of third-place Charming Colleen. Classic Elegance, who broke in a tangle, was pulled up a furlong into the race and was vanned from the course with what stewards said was an injury to her left hind leg.

Nakatani first rode Sharp Lisa last fall in Keeneland's Alcibiades Stakes, in which she finished second. He gave up the mount to ride Sweet Catomine in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, but was back aboard for Sharp Lisa's second-place finish to Splendid Blended in the Hollywood Starlet.

Tyler Baze rode Sharp Lisa to victory in last month's Santa Ynez Stakes, while Nakatani was on suspension, but Baze was at Fair Grounds on Saturday, riding three horses there for Sharp Lisa's trainer, Doug O'Neill. With Sweet Catomine passing the Las Virgenes, Nakatani was available again.

Nakatani's previous experience riding Sharp Lisa paid off, because Nakatani did not panic when Memorette rushed past them at the quarter pole.

"I was trying to give her a breather," he said. "I hadn't gotten into my filly yet. I got into her, and she responded and took off like a good filly."

Kent Desormeaux, who rode Memorette, lost his whip with a few strides to go, but it might not have made a difference.

Sharp Lisa, owned by Paul Reddam, Pablo Suarez, and Mark Schlesinger, was purchased privately after winning her debut last September at Calder. The 3-year-old daughter of Dixieland Band has now won three times in six starts. Dennis O'Neill, an assistant to his brother, said Sharp Lisa would likely await Keeneland's Grade 1 Ashland Stakes on April 9 to prep for the Kentucky Oaks May 6.