01/18/2005 12:00AM

Time to face the big girls

After a three-race losing streak, Sharp Lisa scored her first stakes victory Monday in the Santa Ynez. The Las Virgenes is her likely next start.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The easy part of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting ended on Monday for Sharp Lisa, the winner of the $150,000 Santa Ynez Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

From here on, she is expected to tangle with Grade 1 winners Sweet Catomine and Splendid Blended in the division's top races of the meet.

Sharp Lisa ($3.80) scored her first stakes victory in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez. Ridden by Tyler Baze, she rallied from fifth to reach contention in early stretch and pulled clear late to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

"She's half their size, but she's got the heart," trainer Doug O'Neill said.

The win ended a three-race losing streak for Sharp Lisa - a second in the Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland in early October, a sixth behind Sweet Catomine in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30, and a runner-up finish behind Splendid Blended in the Hollywood Starlet last month.

In the Santa Ynez, Baze rode Sharp Lisa for the first time and kept her in good position throughout. When Baze asked Sharp Lisa to produce a rally in early stretch, she responded quickly.

No Bull Baby, who won the Moccasin Stakes at Hollywood Park in November, finished second, three lengths ahead of Hot Attraction, who was making her stakes debut.

Sharp Lisa finished seven furlongs in 1:23.10.

"This is something we always wanted to see happen," O'Neill said of the victory. "We didn't want her to get into the habit of running behind other horses."

Owned by Paul Reddam, Pablo Suarez, and Mark Schlesinger, Sharp Lisa has won 2 of 5 starts and $261,600. She is likely to resurface in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes over a mile on Feb. 12, which is expected to draw Sweet Catomine and Splendid Blended.

Sweet Catomine fine after win

Sweet Catomine emerged from her win in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes on Sunday in excellent shape, trainer Julio Canani said. The race was Sweet Catomine's 3-year-old debut and her fourth consecutive stakes win.

Canani stopped short of committing Sweet Catomine for the Las Virgenes, but the concept of getting her ready for the Santa Ysabel after a break of 10 weeks since her win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in October, only to pause her campaign to wait for a race such as the $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks on March 13, would seem remote.

"We'll play it by ear," he said, cutting the subject short.

Canani insists that Sweet Catomine was not near 100 percent for the 1 1/16-mile Santa Ysabel.

"She wasn't ready to run," he said. "Now, I feel more relaxed. I didn't want to do too much with her on the off tracks."

Owned by Marty and Pam Wygod, Sweet Catomine has won 4 of 5 starts and $864,600.

Valenzuela gets comeback victory

Jockey Patrick Valenzuela scored the first win of his latest comeback on Redmeansgo in Monday's sixth race, a victory that was met with a mixed reaction from the ontrack crowd of 10,459.

When Valenzuela was introduced as he guided Redmeansgo into the winner's circle, there was applause and a few boos for the troubled rider, whose career has been interrupted twice in the last year because of suspensions.

"I appreciate the support I got," he said later. "The people that didn't support me, I don't worry about that."

Valenzuela finished the week with one victory and five second-place finishes from 15 mounts.

Valenzuela regained his conditional license last week after successfully appealing a ruling issued by the Del Mar stewards last summer that suspended him for failing to take a hair-follicle drug test at Hollywood Park in July.

An administrative law judge sided with Valenzuela's appeal in November, saying the jockey was not informed how long his hair needed to be to submit to testing. The California Horse Racing Board adopted that position on Jan. 7, enabling Valenzuela to reapply for a conditional license.

The return was the first time Valenzuela had ridden since July 1, 2004. In 2003, he led the standings at all five major race meetings in Southern California.

Valenzuela nearly won a major stakes last weekend on Mass Media, who was caught near the finish of Saturday's Grade 2 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes by Minister Eric.

"I thought I'd win a few days ago," he said. "I got beat on a couple of tough ones."

Monday, Redmeansgo ($10.20) rallied from fourth to win a 1 1/16-mile claiming race for 4-year-old fillies by four lengths. Valenzuela, 41, accented the win by furiously pumping his right fist into the air.

"It felt great," Valenzuela said. "I don't know how I looked out there, but I felt great. I think I'm about 85 percent. I only worked horses for two days before I came back. I didn't have a lot of time to get on horses, but I felt great."

Thursday, Valenzuela was named on mounts in six of the eight races at Santa Anita.

Two supplemented to Palos Verdes

McCann's Mojave and Bluesthestandard, both unplaced in the El Conejo Handicap on Jan. 2, have been supplemented for $3,000 to Sunday's $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap at six furlongs.

McCann's Mojave, who won the Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap here last March, finished fifth in the El Conejo, his first start since May. Bluesthestandard was last in the El Conejo, which was run at 5 1/2 furlongs.

The Grade 2 Palos Verdes Handicap is also expected to draw Perfect Moon, who was fourth in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26, and Taste of Paradise, the upset winner of the Grade 3 Vernon Underwood Stakes at Hollywood Park last month.

Trainer John Sadler said that Our New Recruit, the winner of the $2 million Golden Shaheen Sprint in Dubai last March, will miss the Palos Verde because of a training schedule disrupted by recent rain. He said the 4-year-old Stone Rain is likely to represent his stable.

Saturday's top race is the $150,000 San Marcos Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on turf.

* A funeral was held on Jan. 13 for Richard Szabo, a longtime usher at Southern California tracks. Szabo was born in Detroit in 1931. He died in Los Angeles on Jan. 7.