10/24/2004 11:00PM

'Bayou' eligible to improve


CHICAGO - You don't have to put your ear to the ground to hear grumbling on the backstretch when Chicago's racing season switches from idyllic Arlington to hard-core Hawthorne. Just don't count trainer Spanky Broussard among the complainers.

"I've been going to Hawthorne for 40 years," Broussard said. "I've been there since Kelso. I don't have any problem with Hawthorne."

Through last weekend, Broussard-trained horses had won half of the six races in which they competed, one notable exception being Bold Bayou Baby. Bold Bayou Baby has as much talent as any horse in the Broussard arsenal, but she failed to show it Oct. 6, finishing a distant seventh of eight in a sprint allowance.

It was Bold Bayou Baby's first start since June, and she might be set for something better in Wednesday's featured seventh race, a third-level allowance with a $35,000 claiming option. The 6 1/2-furlong race drew a field of six, including major contenders Rich City Girl, Gaelic Miss, and Fighting Fever.

Broussard always has a quiver of quips ready for action. Asked about Bold Bayou Baby's recent flop, he said, voice twinkling: "She had an excuse, but it's none of your business."

Suffice it to say that Broussard expects more Wednesday. He made the point that if he didn't, he wouldn't have entered Bold Bayou Baby. And she may have more to give. Bold Bayou Baby, an Arkansas-bred owned by Ladnier Stables, won three straight early this year, including a gutsy second-level allowance score over Rich City Girl on this racetrack last May. She ran once more after that, finishing fifth in an Arlington overnight handicap, and didn't surface again until her most recent start.

"She had a little problem," Broussard said. "Nothing serious, just something that took some time."

Bold Bayou Baby and jockey Carlos Silva have the rail, and the filly is best as a stalker or pace-presser. Rich City Girl, second last out in a race much like this one, figures to go for the lead from post 3, with Gaelic Miss, once-started since July, and the claimer Seattle Lake pushing her.

If Bold Bayou Baby regains her form, she could slip through on the inside - a perfect trip. If not, and the pace gets hot, the race could fall into the lap of Fighting Fever. She was third last out, beaten only a neck by Rich City Girl in an improved performance.