04/06/2006 12:00AM

La Aspera looks for the upset


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - One year ago, trainer Maria Virginia Pascual registered her first stakes victory in the U.S. when she sent out Miss Victory to capture the Bob Slater Stakes at Gulfstream Park. On Saturday, her husband, Juan Carlos Vazquez, will shoot to win the sixth running of the five-furlong Bob Slater, saddling La Aspera in a field that includes odds-on favorite Whenthedoveflies.

Vazquez took over as the trainer of record for the barn while his wife gave birth to the couple's first child, Sophia, who was born earlier in the meeting. He has saddled 7 winners from 34 starters during the session.

"We're a family, we're a team," said Vazquez. "The stable is running in my name here, but they'll all be back in Maria's name when we get to Delaware. We need Maria back at the barn. This is too much work for me."

Like Miss Victory, is an Argentine-bred, and she has started just once at the meet - finishing a tiring fourth over the main track under third-level allowance conditions on Jan 26. La Aspera, 6, has won just 1 of 9 previous starts on turf, a five-furlong entry-level allowance dash last summer at Delaware Park. Rajiv Maragh has the mount.

La Aspera will have her work cut out trying to defend Miss Victory's crown for the Vazquez family if Whenthedoveflies starts. A five- furlong turf specialist, Whenthedoveflies has won 11 of 15 starts at the distance on grass, the majority of those victories coming in stakes and several of them against the boys.

comes into the race off a second-place finish against colts and geldings in the Tampa Bay Downs Turf Dash on March 18. The Slater will mark her first start over the Gulfstream turf course.

"She'll only run if the course is firm," said trainer Kirk Ziadie, who will not ship Whenthedoveflies from her Tampa base until the morning of the race.

"If it rains she won't start," Ziadie said. "Her only two bad races on grass have come over soft courses."

Ziadie also entered , a recent second-level allowance winner going seven furlongs over Tampa Bay's main track, in the Bob Slater, which carries a $50,000 purse and will be decided under allowance conditions.

Sebastian Madrid will be aboard Whenthedoveflies for the first time on Saturday. Elvis Trujillo is named on Jewels N Gems.

Completing the lineup are the speedsters June Tune and Amandine, Cayuga's Waters, Digno d'Oro, and the longshot Pandora's Secret.