05/30/2003 12:00AM

Chopinina a go if turf isn't too soft

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Chopinina, last year's Sovereign Award-winning champion turf filly or mare, is scheduled to launch her 2003 campaign Sunday at Woodbine in the Grade 2, $278,200 Nassau Stakes.

Chopinina has never won a stakes, but her second-place finish in the Grade 1 Atto Mile last September was instrumental in winning her the Sovereign. She won two optional claimers last June, and has been idle since finishing eight lengths back in 11th in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Arlington Oct. 26.

Trainer John Alec Fehr said that Chopinina hasn't been training as well this spring as she did in 2002.

"She's been training okay," said Fehr. "Some of her works have been better than others. I would say she's a little more relaxed now than she was last year. She's older and a little more mature."

Fehr believes Chopinina abhorred the yielding turf in the BC Filly and Mare Turf, and said he might run her Sunday only if the ground is on the firm side.

"We're hoping for a good, firm turf," Fehr said. "I'm going to walk the course Sunday morning, and if I think it's too soft, then we won't run her."

Also entered in the 1 1/16-mile Nassau are Hot Talent, Mariensky, Madam Cerito, Five Fishes, Byzantine, Strait From Texas, First Quarter, Mulrainy, and One for Rose.

Hot Talent won the Nassau's allowance prep, which was taken off the grass. Previously a turf specialist, Hot Talent got her first first test on the main track in that prep, and she passed with flying colors.

"I was quite impressed," said trainer Malcolm Pierce. "She ran a decent time, and did everything right."

Pierce said he is leery about running Hot Talent back in two weeks on Sunday.

"It's coming back a little quicker than we'd like to run," said Pierce. "But we need to go in and have a look at the field. She seems to be doing really well. We'll make a decision on race day as to whether or not she'll run."

Belmont shipper Mariensky is trained by Christophe Clement, who won the 2002 Nassau with Siringas. Mariensky, who won a second-level allowance at Aqueduct in her lone start this year, was also entered in Saturday's Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay Handicap at Belmont.

Madame Cerito, based in Kentucky with trainer John Ward, won her maiden in Ireland last June. She won her North American debut April 9 in a preliminary allowance at Keeneland, romping by nearly seven lengths despite a wide trip.