02/21/2008 12:00AM

Circumstances favoring Autobahn Girl

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This soggy winter in New Orleans has put a major damper on turf racing at Fair Grounds. Thursday brought still another sloppy-dirt, off-turf day at the track, and the prospect of more rain before Saturday's Bayou Handicap already has cost the race one major contender.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said Thursday that Just Little, who might have been the Bayou favorite, wasn't going to be shipped from Pletcher's south Florida base.

"We're concerned about the amount of rain they're getting there," Pletcher said.

Another Floridian, Ballymore Lady, did ship to Fair Grounds, arriving Wednesday night for trainer Eddie Kenneally. Whether she would start in an off-the-turf edition of the $150,000 Bayou is an open question.

"That's not what I'm here for," Kenneally said, referring to the prospect of a race on the main track. "She's never run on dirt, so we're just going to have to see."

Even had the race gone as drawn, the Bayou had a fairly short field of seven. Now, six at most will start, and one could easily see both Ballymore Lady and Mystic Soul - who also never has raced on dirt - coming out, which would make for a four-horse field.

All of which could play directly into the hands - or hooves - of Autobahn Girl, already a two-time stakes winner at this meet.

Autobahn Girl won the Pago Hop for 3-year-old fillies on turf Dec. 29, but may be a better horse on dirt, where she has captured 5 of 11 starts, including 2 wins and 2 seconds from 5 wet-track tries. Autobahn Girl came from the back of the field despite having a false pace in front of her and won the Jan. 26 Marie Krantz Memorial, which was moved from turf onto a sloppy main track.

Swingit stayed in that race too, finishing fourth, and seems like a much better filly on grass. Making her first start in five months, she won the Dec. 29 Furl Sail by a length going 1o1/16 miles on the Fair Grounds grass. Swingit has gone 0 for 2 at the Bayou's 1 1/8-mile distance, but seems capable of getting the trip under the right circumstances.

Ballymore Lady has yet to race beyond 1 1/16 miles since being imported to the U.S. from France late in 2006, but she won at 1 3/8 miles overseas. Kenneally, who has booked local jock Corey Lanerie to ride, said he believes 1 1/8 miles is well within Ballymore Lady's range, and that course conditions should not be a factor.

"I think if they do use the grass, it won't be firm, but I don't see that as a problem for her," Kenneally said.