02/14/2003 1:00AM

Chilean star makes U.S. debut


ALBANY, Calif. - Ema Bovary may not get a warm reception when she makes her United States racing debut against seven other older fillies and mares in Sunday's $60,000-added Richmond Handicap at Golden Gate Fields.

The 4-year-old Chilean-bred and -raced filly will have to face Lacie Girl, northern California's top female sprinter, and track specialist Onslaught, who has won five of her seven starts over the Golden Gate Fields track.

Lacie Girl is undefeated in five northern California starts, including four at Sunday's six-furlong distance. She just defeated Onslaught by 2 1/4 lengths in the Orinda Handicap on Jan. 25.

"She burned a hole in my mare's hide she went by so fast," said Onslaught's trainer Jedd Josephson.

Lacie Girl and Onslaught aren't the only proven runners Ema Bovary must face.

Bullish Miss, Fertile, Kitty on the Track, and Marty's Zee have stakes wins or placings. Devil Dancing, who makes her stakes debut, has won three of her last four starts.

Larry Ross, trainer of Ema Bovary, said, "I really doesn't know what to expect, but she's done everything we've asked her to do."

A bloodstock agent approached Ross last spring about the filly, and Ross and owner Richard T. Beal Jr. liked what they saw on the tapes of her races in Chile, but a complication arose.

"We were interested, but she kept winning, and the price kept going up," Ross said.

Beal purchased her after a stakes victory last July. "She just turned 3 years old and defeated older in that race," Ross said.

Because she was born south of the equator, Ema Bovary is still really only 3 years old, but she is considered a 4-year-old by Northern Hemisphere standards.

Ross said he had no options for Ema Bovary's U.S. debut.

"She doesn't have any conditions left," Ross said. "It's tough to go in a stakes, but we have no other choice."

From watching tapes, Ross says he expects the filly to be forwardly placed in the early going. But he doesn't know if Ema Bovary has faced the kind of early speed that Sunday's rivals can throw at her.

"It's hard to judge their quality versus North Americans," Ross said. "She was running against some of the better quality fillies in Chile."

Ema Bovary spent her first two months in the U.S. on a farm and has been with Ross since late September.

"She relaxes well and does everything you ask," Ross said. "Bobby [Gonzalez, who will ride her Sunday] really likes her. He's taking off Fertile to ride her so that's a plus."

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