04/29/2004 11:00PM

Sprint star may rise from Woodside

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Ema Bovary, winner of eight straight races, is the queen of northern California - if not all West Coast - female sprinters.

Sunday's $55,000-added Woodside Handicap, a six-furlong race at Bay Meadows, will determine who is her heir apparent in northern California.

The field of seven fillies and mares includes four multiple stakes winners: Bold Roberta, Channing Way, Christmas Time, and Pheiffer. The others are Coconut Girl, Devil Dancing, and Stormica.

Christmas Time and Pheiffer have alternated victories in their past two starts. Christmas Time, whose initial stakes victory was in last year's Emeryville here, won the Soviet Problem in her last start. Pheiffer ran an uncharacteristically bad race, fading to last after taking the lead at the quarter pole. In their previous meeting, Pheiffer won the Richmond Handicap.

In their 2004 debuts, Christmas Time and Pheiffer were second and third behind Ema Bovary in the Orinda Handicap.

Coconut Girl has won two of her past three starts. She earned triple-digit Beyers in her two victories and is the only filly in the race who has hit 100 on the Beyer scale.

Devil Dancing was second to Ema Bovary in the Camilla Urso.

Gary Mandella, who trains Stormica, cites Ema Bovary as an example of the heights he hopes Stormica can attain. Stormica began her career in France and is 2 for 2 in allowance company since coming to the United States.

While Pheiffer, Christmas Time, Channing Way and Coconut Girl engage in a pace battle, Stormica will be sitting back ready to make a big stretch run.

"She could be [close to the pace] if we wanted her to," Mandella said. "She doesn't break that well, coming from Europe where they walk out of the gate, and I haven't changed her much. We just let her gain speed naturally. I'm afraid if I asked her for speed, it might work against her when she stretches out."

Stormica won her U.S. debut Jan. 30 and showed improvement when she won again March 10.

"She gives everything when she runs," said Mandella. "And she'll be running with a quarter-crack patch, so she needs time.

"This will be a good test," he said. "She's meeting some fillies who have won this type of stakes before, but if I'm right, she may be a graded stakes runner who'll be meeting Ema Bovary sometime."