Roger Stein has been part of two exceptionally heart-warming stories in his nearly quarter-century as a trainer. One involved Southern Truce, a mare that rose from the low claiming ranks to win two Grade I races and defeat champion Paseana in the 1993 Santa Margarita Handicap. I'm The Business, a New-Zealand-bred mare who faces her stiffest competition yet in Sunday's $200,000 Las Palmas Handicap (gr. IIT) at 1 1/8 miles on the Santa Anita turf, is the other. Southern Truce suffered a tragic end several years ago when she was struck by lightning in a pasture after Robert and Janice McNair purchased her. I'm The Business barely survive an extreme case of ulcers last year. "Last year she almost died," said the 47-yar-old Stein. "A year ago right now she was at a clinic in Chino Valley, and they told me that she might not make the morning. She had horrible ulcers. They said on a scale of one to five, it was a six. The doctor said it was the worst case he had ever seen. "I was praying that even if she didn't run again, I didn't want her to die because you don't get that many horses like her. It hurt because I knew something wasn't quite right with her, and I was running her like that. It bothered me plenty. "A funny thing about her, most horses, we don't take credit for how they do. This is just a one-run mare. She may not be a world champion but here she's a star. She doesn't know how to quit. She tries absolutely as hard as she can every time she goes out there. "Being as this is going to be her 15th start of the year, I would liked to have given her a little break, but she doesn't seem to want to stand for that. So we find places to run. This race came up, it didn't look all that tough at first glance, and now, of course, we've got to run into Voodoo Dancer and Tates Creek. "But she ran well behind Voodoo Dancer (second in the Palomar Handicap at Del Mar on Sept. 8) and while I respect her a whole lot, we were beaten (only) two lengths, and with the trouble we had, we could have been a lot closer. "There are two questions we have to get answered right now (in the Las Palmas): one is, can she get a mile and an eighth? It's further than she's ever run before; and two, is she going to get a good enough trip? Is she going to sit in and just get to sprint an eighth of a mile and will she be effective or will she hang a little bit? I'm confident of her. Pat Valenzuela is going to ride her for the first time. It's been very difficult to keep the same rider on her because they seem to find better horses to ride or they're committed somewhere else. But being a smaller stable, I expect that." I'm The Business has a 4-4-9 record from 25 starts, with earnings of $221,177. Stein obtained the diminutive gray mare through his New Zealand network, which has been well established since his successful days as a standard-bred trainer. Besides Voodoo Dancer and Tates Creek, I'm The Business will be facing Grade I winner Tout Charmant and Surya in the field of 10. Noches De Rosa will be ridden by Julie Krone.$200,000 Las Palmas Handicap (gr. IIT), 1 1/8 mile, fillies & mares, 3 & up
PP. Horse, Jockey, Wgt.
1. Noches De Rosa, Julie Krone, 115
2. Surya, Kent Desormeaux, 118
3. Tates Creek, Jerry Bailey, 120
4. I'm The Business, Valenzuela, 114
5. Polaire, Iggy Puglisi, 114
6. Voodoo Dancer, Corey Nakatani, 121
7. Desiraes My Candy, David Flores, 114
8. Tout Charmant, Alex Solis, 121
9. Crazy Ensign, Laffit Pincay Jr., 117
10. Magic Mission, Victor Espinoza, 112.