12/05/2001 12:00AM

Yulla Yulla: New Mexico's roadrunner


SUNLAND PARK, N.M. - The exploits of Xtra Heat and Hallowed Dreams, two fillies who have compiled extraordinary winning percentages the past few years, have been well chronicled. But here in New Mexico, Yulla Yulla has quietly put together a remarkable record of her own, though few people outside of the state have heard of her.

Yulla Yulla, a 6-year-old New Mexico-bred mare, won her 20th race in 24 starts in last Saturday's $103,000 New Mexico Racing Commission Handicap at Sunland Park, boosting her lifetime earnings to $428,452. Yulla Yulla has become a hometown hero on the Sunland Park-Albuquerque-Ruidoso circuit, although her record is still a notch below that of Hallowed Dreams, who is 25 of 27 with earnings of $714,144, and she has faced nothing like the quality of competition faced by Xtra Heat, an Eclipse Award contender who has won 17 of 22 starts and earned $1.2 million.

While Yulla Yulla's earnings are outstanding for a horse who has never raced outside of New Mexico, it should be noted that her first two years of competition came in the state's pre-slot machine era. When Yulla Yulla won her non-winners-of-three allowance in July 1998, it was for a $5,300 purse at Ruidoso. Today, the purse for a similar race at Sunland, which houses 600 slot machines, would be almost three times that amount.

Considering Yulla Yulla's ability, it is somewhat surprising that at 6 she has made only 24 lifetime starts. Her connections could perhaps have earned considerably more money had they campaigned her more aggressively.

"We have been very patient and picked her spots carefully, as well as giving her a three-month vacation each year," said trainer Johnie Jamison. "As a result we have a very sound 6-year-old, which has been our plan all along."

Jamison also noted that while Yulla Yulla is a pleasure to train, "like most good fillies, she is on the temperamental side."

Yulla Yulla's owner and breeder, Frank Macaron, is understandably proud of his homebred mare. "I raced Yulla Yulla's dam, Jesta Performer," said Macaron. "She was the sort who had talent, though for a variety of reasons never reached her potential as a racehorse. But I had great faith that she would be able to produce a runner, and thank God I was right."

Macaron, a 62-year-old retired railroad man, owns a small farm in Los Lunas, N.M., on which Yulla Yulla was foaled.

Yulla Yulla was named New Mexico-bred horse of the year in 2000 and is looking for her third straight title as statebred filly and mare champion. Her race on Saturday, while not her most impressive, was inspiring nonetheless. Coming off a layoff of more than seven months, Jamison said, "you always worry if they will be fit enough."

Yulla Yulla has tremendous speed but is also quite content to stalk the pace, a tactic regular jockey Miguel Fuentes employed in the Racing Commission Handicap. Entering the stretch, Fuentes steered Yulla Yulla through a small hole along the rail to engage Gollygot, to whom she was conceding seven pounds. Gollygot had a head in front going past the eighth pole but Yulla Yulla dug in and won the six-furlong race by a neck on sheer determination.

Jamison has kept his cards close to his vest concerning Yulla Yulla's next start, but did reveal he may stretch her out for the first time. "She rates kindly and in many of her races they could have gone around again and not caught her," Jamison said.

As for Macaron, he is content to enjoy the ride. "Owning a horse like her is a dream come true and she has brought much joy into my life."

* A newcomer to the local jockey colony sure to make an impact is five-time Canterbury Park riding champion Luis Quinonez. Quinonez, riding here for the first time at the behest of trainer Jerry Dobbs, has also ridden successfully at many other midwestern tracks, including Remington, Oaklawn, and Prairie Meadows. Quinonez's biggest win came aboard Mister Deville in the $300,000 Indiana Derby of 2000 and he has more than 1,500 career wins to his credit.