07/12/2007 11:00PM

Yonagucci starts strong


MIAMI - Trainer Manny Azpurua said he always had high hopes for his 2-year-old filly Yonagucci.

But even he admits she's exceeded his expectations after posting a pair of one-sided victories to open her career, including a convincing triumph in last Saturday's J J'sdream Stakes.

Yonagucci is owned by Roger Urbina, who purchased the daughter of Yonaguska for a bargain $15,000 at the Ocala Breeders' August 2006 sale.

"She's shown me all along she was a good filly," Azpurua said. "It's funny because I told my wife before this horse ever ran that she wasn't like a horse but more like a person the way she does everything and the way she seems to enjoy everything that she does."

Although Yonagucci has been with the pace in her two starts, Azpurua believes she doesn't necessarily have to be on the lead to win.

"The best thing about this filly is that she can go easily and doesn't fight the rider, and I think she could be just as effective coming from last as she has been on the lead," Azpurua said. "That's why I don't think extra distance will be a problem for her. At least not up to a mile."

Although a Florida-bred, Yonagucci is not eligible for the Florida Stallion series, which begins here next month. So Azpurua will be taking her on the road beginning with Saratoga's Grade 2 Adirondack Stakes on Aug. 15.

"I'm going to pass the first race in the series up there and start with the second leg at 6 1/2 furlongs," Azpurua said, referring to the Adirondack. "And if she runs like I think she should then we'll take her back for the third leg."

Azpurua was referring to the Grade 1 Spinaway on Sept. 2.

Turf specialists seek dry conditions

With all three allowance races on Sunday's card scheduled for the turf, local officials are hoping to finally get a break from the weather after several weeks of seemingly endless afternoon downpours.

The best of the trio of turf events is a second-level optional claiming race carded at a mile. Among the key contenders is Ms. Wonder Woman, one of the countless number of horses who have been frustrated by the wet weather here this summer.

Ms. Wonder Woman opened her 2007 campaign on April 29, returning from a 5 1/2-month hiatus with a game third-place finish going a mile on the turf. She has not been able to get back on grass since, scratching several times in the interim with her only start over the last 11 weeks resulting in a fifth-place finish in the Sara's Success Stakes May 26, which was switched from turf to dirt.

Champagne Brunch also has been sidelined for six weeks since rallying to a two-length entry-level allowance win over the grass on May 31, good for a career best 91 Beyer Speed Figure. A turf specialist who has made 27 or her 29 starts on grass, Champagne Brunch also has been entered and scratched due to weather on a couple of occasions since that victory.

Famous Frolic is perhaps the most versatile of the key contenders in the main event, having posted 2 of her 5 wins on grass and 3 on dirt, including a nose decision in the 1 1/2-mile New York New York Stakes June 9.