08/12/2005 12:00AM

Latice rallies to win Waya


Jonathan Sheppard had heard the horror stories of how hard Saratoga's rain-deprived turf courses had allegedly become. So concerned was Sheppard, he considered scratching Latice out of Friday's .

But Sheppard decided to walk the course himself Friday morning, and when he did he found the myth outweighed the facts.

"I didn't think it looked that bad. They've got a good grass cover, and they've obviously been irrigating it well," Sheppard said.

Sheppard kept Latice in the race, and she rewarded him with a strong closing kick that carried her to a 1 3/4-length victory in the $66,700 Waya Stakes at Saratoga.

A Lulu Ofa Menifee finished second, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Theater R.N.

Latice, winner of the French Oaks as a 3-year-old, was making her first start in North America and first since finishing 10th behind males in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup last December.

Under Jose Santos, Latice lingered in the back of the pack until the three-eighths pole, when Santos let her loose and she rallied past A Lulu Ofa Menifee, who made the lead on the turn.

Latice, owned by Augustin Stable, covered the 1 1/2 miles in 2:28.70 and returned $4 as the favorite.

Latice could make her next start in the Grade 1, $750,000 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont on Oct. 1.