02/29/2004 1:00AM

Very Vegas pulls upset in La Habra


ARCADIA, Calif. - Very Vegas scored a 16-1 upset in Sunday's $111,350 for 3-year-old fillies, leading throughout to give apprentice jockey Mick Ruis his first stakes win at Santa Anita.

Very Vegas ($35.40) led by as many as 2 1/2 lengths on the hillside portion of race over about 6 1/2 furlongs, but was in front by only a length over the stalking Triple Fantasy at the eighth pole.

Very Vegas held off a late surge from 8-5 favorite Aspen Gal to win by a neck. Trained by Marcelo Polanco, Very Vegas was timed in 1:13.99. Aspen Gal finished a half-length in front of Fortunately in the field of nine.

Ruis, 16, rode Very Vegas to a win in the Arizona Oaks over 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 7, when the filly was trained by Terry Knight. Owned by Everest Stables, Very Vegas joined Polanco's stable at Santa Anita in early February.

Polanco did not hesitate to use Ruis on Very Vegas despite the jockey's inexperience.

"He knows her better than me," he said. "I've only had her for two weeks."

Very Vegas has won 5 of 9 starts and $177,010. She beat maiden claimers over about four furlongs at Fairplex Park last September in her third start and won her first stakes in the minor Bay Meadows Lassie last November.