11/01/2004 12:00AM

Bonapaw resumes racing

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Life on the farm has not agreed with Bonapaw since he was retired in January, so he will return to competition Wednesday night in the featured ninth race at Delta Downs in Vinton, La.

The five-furlong allowance drew a field of 10, including leading contenders Joyful Tune and Believe Im Special.

Bonapaw, an 8-year-old gelding, last raced in December, finishing seventh in an optional claiming race at Fair Grounds. A month later, his owner, Dennis Richard, announced Bonapaw's retirement, but with a footnote: He said if Bonapaw did not like being turned out, he would return to the races. About four months ago, Bonapaw, who won the Grade 1 Vosburgh in 2002, resumed training in Folsom, La.

"When I had him on the farm. It looked like he was wilting away," said Richard. "It didn't agree with him at all. He just didn't like it."

Richard decided to point Bonapaw for a comeback. Bonapaw has been working at an equestrian center in Folsom that has two training tracks, and for his final work he shipped to Evangeline Downs and went five furlongs in 1:01.20. It was the second-fastest of 13 works at the distance at the track on Oct. 23.

"Whether he's a stakes horse again, I have no idea, but he's training real good," said Richard. "He had a little breathing problem [last year], and I think we've got that corrected. I think he's going to run good. I really believe that with my heart. Like they all say, keep 'em happy and they'll run good. If he gets any happier, he'll fall down laughing."

Bonapaw will have one of his regular partners, Gerard Melancon, aboard Wednesday and will be making his first start for trainer Michael Roussel, who is based at the equestrian center in Folsom.

Bonapaw will be Roussel's first starter since May 15, 2002. Roussel has a career record of five wins from 86 starters.

Later this year, Bonapaw could race at Fair Grounds. In all, he has won 18 of 46 starts and $1,158,752. His highest career Beyer Speed Figure is a 119.