11/07/2003 12:00AM

Ema Bovary back from layoff


ALBANY, Calif. - Ema Bovary, who hasn't raced since winning the Washington State Legislators Handicap at Emerald Downs on May 25, will return in the $60,000-added Camilla Urso Handicap against eight rivals.

Northern California's top sprinter, Lacie Girl, will pass because the Camilla Urso comes too quickly after her narrow loss in the $107,000 Very Subtle Handicap on the Breeders' Cup card. Lacie Girl's 3-year-old stablemates, Christmas Time and Just Bill Me, will run, however.

Ema Bovary's five-length victory in the Washington State Legislators came in stakes-record time. Her trainer, Larry Ross, said after the race: "I really think she is the most talented horse I've ever trained. And she's just getting started."

Ema Bovary developed what Ross called "a little heat" in her foot after the race, but the time off may have done her good.

Ema Bovary is a Chilean-bred filly, who celebrated her true fourth birthday on Oct. 10. In her American debut in the Richmond Handicap, she trailed by 19 lengths at the first call and finished last in the field of seven, but she ran her final half-mile in 44.61 seconds.

In her next start, Ema Bovary handed Lacie Girl her first defeat at six furlongs, winning by a nose in the Soviet Problem Handicap. Since then, Ema Bovary has won two sprints at Emerald Downs despite spotting the field ground at the start in both races. She was named the top sprinter at the Emerald meet.

Ross has been working to improve Ema Bovary's gate habits and is pleased with the way she has broken in recent gate drills.

Ema Bovary's top challenge could come from either Christmas Time or Just Bill Me. Christmas Time won the Emeryville in wire-to-wire style at Bay Meadows. Just Bill Me is a multiple stakes-winner in Florida who is making her first start for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer off a series of strong works. This will be Just Bill Me's first start since she set the pace in the Grade 3 La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 1.

Pheiffer just won the C.H. Russell Handicap in wire-to-wire style. Stakes-winner Fancee Bargain and stakes-placed Wild Tickle also figure to be tough as stalkers.