03/29/2002 1:00AM

Trainer highly confident in Yourfinalanswer


ALBANY, Calif. - Trainer Bob Hess has a chance to prove himself right in the $55,000-added Emeryville Stakes at Golden Gate Fields on Sunday.

Hess has entered Yourfinalanswer in the six-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies.

He hopes she lives up to his long-held expectations.

"I thought before she even ran last year that she was the best filly in northern California," he said. "I liked the way she moves and her attitude. She's a tough filly."

Yourfinalanswer made her debut Aug. 5 at Santa Rosa. Favored in the race, she took the lead in the lane, but lost in a photo.

"She got messed up in the gate and got away bad," Hess said.

She also came out of the race with shin problems, which sidelined her until Jan. 27 when she won her comeback race at six furlongs by six lengths, going wire to wire in a fast time.

Yourfinalanswer made her stakes debut in her next start, the $100,000 La Habra, on Santa Anita's hillside turf course. She cut out fast fractions, setting the pace, before finishing fourth in an effort that impressed Hess.

"It's almost impossible to win going down the hill for the first time if you're on the lead," he said, alluding to horses having to make a switch on the hillside course from turf to dirt and back to turf after they cross the main track. Hess said the adjustment is easier when following horses.

Yourfinalanswer came out of the La Habra none the worse for wear and turned in another strong performance winning wire to wire eight days ago in a six-furlong race at Golden Gate Fields.

Although Yourfinalanswer has flashed good early speed, Hess doesn't believe she needs the lead to win.

"I've worked her behind horses," he said. "You can do anything with her."

Although the field of 11 includes Respectful, second in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez at Santa Anita, and Rich Musique, who defeated Respectful at six furlongs on Dec. 31, Yourfinalanswer's toughest competition could come from Fertile, who was arguably northern California's top 2-year-old filly last year.

She won her only two starts, both at Hollywood Park for trainer Jeff Bonde. She wrenched a knee in her second start, the Nursery Stakes.

When she returned to the races, she met males in the six-furlong Sutter Stakes on Dec. 30, setting the pace before tiring and finishing fourth in her first start in seven months.

Meeting fillies in the Vallejo Stakes, Fertile was an easy wire-to-wire winner.

Fertile had won from off the pace in her first two starts.

"She came back fresh, and both those races were in the mud," Bonde said of Fertile's two races this year. "She got to running and got the lead."

Bonde says he has only one concern going into Sunday's race.

"It's a large field," he said. "You're going to have to have racing luck."