06/08/2006 11:00PM

Filly returns in turf mile


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Trainer Daniel Franko has one hope for Muddy Woman in Sunday's Bay Meadows feature.

"I hope she comes back as good as she was," said Franko, who will start the 4-year-old filly for the first time in nearly nine months in a first-level allowance race at one mile on the grass.

last start was a victory at the distance in a $40,000 starter allowance race. Both of her career victories have come on this turf course, where she also has a second and a third in six starts.

Then came the layoff. "She had a shin problem," Franko said.

If Muddy Woman runs as well as she has in the past, Franko says a lot of the credit will go to jockey Roberto Gonzalez - even though Gonzalez will be riding All Aglow, one of 11 rivals entered against Muddy Woman on Sunday.

Gonzalez was a key architect in Muddy Woman's return. Franko sent her to Gonzalez's new ranch and lay-up facility in nearby Brentwood.

"I try to take my horses to a good farm, and they really get horses legged up there," Franko said. "You get them back to the track all legged up. It's helpful. You only need 30 to 40 days to get them ready to race."

The 51-year-old Gonzalez purchased a ranch he calls Rancho San Nicolas 14 months ago. It has sand and grass paddocks and a state-of-the-art equicizer, similar to a walking machine but capable of going 25 miles per hour.

Gonzalez has more than a dozen local trainers as clients, and notes that he got the 4,000th victory of his riding career aboard Peak a Bootrando, who was at his ranch before returning to the races.

Gonzalez supervises the workout schedules for the horses, building up their speed and endurance by first walking them and then increasing the speed on the special machines, which have 70-foot arms. He has horses go in one direction for up to 10 minutes before switching. The horses work over a small, fenced-in, synthetic track.

"It takes the pressure off them and builds them up in the shoulders and behind," Gonzalez said.

Although she has worked well, condition is a question for Muddy Woman, who has shown some speed in the past but is unlikely to get the lead in this spot with All Aglow and Classical Lady drawn outside of her.

The biggest threat may be , a stalker with a pair of turf victories this year and a win and a second here.