05/27/2003 12:00AM

Ema Bovary hard to beat


AUBURN, Wash. - Ema Bovary has done her best to disguise her superiority over the local fillies and mares, spotting her rivals several lengths in both appearances at Emerald Downs, but talent like hers isn't easy to hide.

When she made her local debut in the 6 1/2-furlong Hastings Handicap on May 4, she broke three to four lengths behind the field before recovering to win by just over two lengths in 1:14.40. She broke better in Sunday's Washington State Legislators Handicap at the same distance, but dropped down on her heels soon after the start and forced rider Roberto Gonzalez to take up sharply.

That may have caused a moment's concern for those who had backed Ema Bovary down to 1-2, but it was a very brief moment. Gonzalez found room along the rail and Ema Bovary kicked into overdrive, zooming past all but the pacesetting Princess Forever, whom she caught and passed at the top of the stretch en route to a six-length victory in a stakes-record 1:15.

"It gives me chills to watch her run," said Larry Ross, who trained the Chilean-bred Ema Bovary in California before sending her to his wife, Sharon Ross, at this track. "I really think she is the most talented horse I've ever trained, and she is just getting started."

Ema Bovary has been so impressive that she may very well have run herself out of competition at Emerald. Racing secretary Grant Holcomb boosted her weight a full four pounds to 122 for Sunday's stakes, yet only three horses, including Canadian standout Elana d'Amour, were entered to run against her. Sharon Ross had to scratch stablemate Clever Coed from a $25,000 claiming race on Saturday to provide a fifth contender for the Washington State Legislators. She hopes she will be able to run Ema Bovary again in the one-mile King County Handicap on June 21.

"We'll nominate her for that race and look at the weights, then we'll decide whether to enter or turn her out," she said. "She picked up four pounds for this race, and that just didn't seem right. If she picks up much more weight for the mile race, or if they won't enter against her, we won't be able to run her here again. It would be a shame for the track, because she is a crowd-pleaser."

She is indeed. Mitigating the track's pleasure in hosting Ema Bovary on Sunday, however, was a minus show pool of almost $8,000. The minus pool resulted when two out-of-state bettors wagered a total of roughly $40,000 on Ema Bovary to show.

Leather N Lace stepping up

On Monday, Leather N Lace, who was making just his third career start, emerged as a force in the 3-year-old division with an authoritative victory in the $40,000 Pepsi-Cola Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Taking advantage of a potent rail bias, Leather N Lace broke on top from the inside post and was never headed en route to a two-length score over Geardown in 1:14.20.

Leather N Lace, a son of Slewdledo who was purchased for just $7,000 from the WTBA summer yearling sale in 2001, was twice risked for $25,000 tags before earning his stakes brackets. He ran third in his debut last July 4, then returned to graduate by more than seven lengths on May 10.

"He bucked both shins in his first race, so I thought he ran very creditably to get third," said trainer Rick Terry. "I was pretty worried about losing him when we brought him back for $25,000, but that's the way the game is played."

Leather N Lace, who was ridden on Sunday by Amir Cedeno, was the first stakes winner for Terry and his owners, a partnership of Riverside Thoroughbreds, Swagerty Stables, and Pat Terry, the trainer's wife.

* Roger Bushaw of Seattle won Monday's Win-A-Jockey Sweep-stakes and selected leading rider Kevin Radke. Bushaw will receive the equivalent of 1 percent of Radke's purse earnings for the meeting, a prize that amounted to $13,749 last year.

* Jockey Frank Gonsalves departed after Monday's racing for Colorado's Arapahoe Park, where he was leading rider last summer. Gonsalves, the leading rider at Emerald in 1997, is ninth in the standings with 10 wins.