11/30/2005 1:00AM

Edge to Baena in 10-horse turf scramble


BOSSIER CITY, La. - Fair Grounds racing secretary Ben Huffman is restricted to carding only a handful of turf races a week because of the over-seeded, warm-weather nature of the turf course he has to work with here at Louisiana Downs. Friday's feature, the lone turf race on the card, brings together an intriguing mix of 10 fillies and mares in an optional claimer with two-other-than or nonwinners-of-three conditions.

, a Niall O'Callaghan-trained 3-year-old El Prado filly, likely will be the favorite in the 1 1/16-mile race, which has a $39,000 purse. She comes off a third-place finish under similar conditions at Churchill Downs. Before that, she finished third in the Hawthorne Oaks in mid-October.

Larry Melancon, aboard for each of Baena's last two starts, will ride her again. He arrived here from the recently completed Churchill Downs meeting, joining the track's large jockey colony.

Another strong contender is , who, though winless this year, has been a model of consistency for owners Steve and Patricia Roe.

Trained by Pat Mouton, Intractabie has finished in the trifecta in 6 of her 9 starts in 2005, including several appearances in stakes company.

Most recently, Intractabie mounted a late rally to finish fifth in the Cornucopia Stakes here on Oct. 9. Regular rider E.J. Perrodin again has the call.

seeks to make amends for a second-place finish at odds-on at Sam Houston Park in her last start. Roman Chapa rides her for trainer Mike Stidham.

Big fields continue

Even though turf racing has been cut back drastically, including two scheduled turf races that were rained off on Sunday, field size continues to be very strong, thanks to main-track racing that is averaging double-digit starters per race.

Competition from Evangeline Downs, which opens Thursday, will likely lessen activity at the entry box, but both tracks filled cards on Thursday and Friday.

"So far so good," Huffman said. "Everyone has been ready to run. This sure beats all those seven- and eight-horse fields we had last year."