06/02/2004 11:00PM

Ema Bovary has rivals heading for the hills

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Ema Bovary, riding a nine-race winning streak, has scared away so much of the competition for Saturday's Desert Stormer Handicap at Hollywood Park that track officials were contemplating Thursday morning whether to run the race.

As of mid-morning Thursday, the Grade 3 Desert Stormer Handicap had only three confirmed entries - Coconut Girl, Ema Bovary, and Hope Rises. Track officials said the race was likely to be run, but would be held early in the program, far from the lucrative pick six. First post is 12:50 p.m.

There were 10 nominations for the Desert Stormer, and several of the fillies and mares listed were never serious candidates.

The way has performed in recent starts, it is easy to see why others want to avoid her.

Her winning streak began at Golden Gate Fields in March 2003 and has included victories at four other tracks - Emerald Downs, Keeneland, Hollywood Park, and Santa Anita.

So far the demands of preserving the streak have yet to take a toll, trainer Larry Ross says.

"That's the most amazing thing about her. If anything, she's getting into it more," Ross said. "Everything has been going really well."

Owned by Richard Beal and Lana Ramsey, Ema Bovary will be heavily favored in the Desert Stormer, which is run at six furlongs.

The race marks Ema Bovary's first appearance at Hollywood Park since she won a six-furlong allowance race last November. It is her first appearance in Southern California since she won the Grade 3 Las Flores Handicap over six furlongs at Santa Anita on Feb. 22.

Since then, Ema Bovary scored arguably the most important win of her 17-race career in the $175,000 Madison Stakes at Keeneland on April 7. Not only was she racing away from the West Coast for the first time since arriving from Chile in late 2002, but Ema Bovary won in a strong field over seven furlongs.

Ridden by regular rider Roberto Gonzalez, Ema Bovary scored by 2 1/4 lengths over Harmony Lodge. Yell finished third.

"Those horses were better than what she's beating out here," Ross said. "It worked out really well. She's incredible. She's like a Wonder Woman. The race itself, she won pretty handily."

In the Madison, Ema Bovary displayed her typical style: She stalked the pace to the three-eighths pole and quickly took over.

"It looked like Bobby might have asked her to move quicker than she normally does," Ross said. "She was pretty tired after that race. The tracks are real different than back here."

Ross has run out of opportunities for Ema Bovary in northern California.

"She kind of knows when she gets on the van, it's a road trip for a race," he said. "She's just kind of blossoming."

Coconut Girl and Hope Rises have run well in recent starts, but don't have the sprint form to challenge Ema Bovary.

Coconut Girl finished third behind Ema Bovary in the Las Flores Handicap and returned to win an allowance race at Santa Anita in March. She may inherit the lead by default.

Hope Rises won the restricted Santa Lucia Handicap over 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita on April 4 and followed that with a last-place finish in a field of four in the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap here May 9. She bobbled at the start of the Vanity and faded in the stretch.

The Desert Stormer marks Hope Rises's first start in a sprint since she finished fourth in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes over seven furlongs Dec. 27.

Leroidesanimaux sidelined

Leroidesanimaux, a stakes winner at this meeting, is out of training after a recent nuclear scan test revealed a shin injury, trainer Bobby Frankel said.

Leroidesanimaux won the Inglewood Handicap on May 1 and was a supplemental entry for the Grade 1 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile last Monday before the injury was detected.

"He'll need some time off," Frankel said. "His shin lit up in the nuclear scan, but his x-rays are clean."

Injury forces Annabelly to retire

Annabelly, second in the Soviet Problem Handicap at Golden Gate Fields, has been retired after suffering a left foreleg injury, trainer Jenine Sahadi said. Annabelly was nominated to the Desert Stormer Handicap.

A winner of 4 of 7 starts, Annabelly recently underwent surgery to have three screws inserted in the leg to stabilize the injury. Sahadi said Annabelly will be confined to her stall for 30 days and will not be bred this year.