02/22/2007 12:00AM

Elle Runaway gets her spot in Bayou BC

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NEW ORLEANS - On paper, Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Bayou Breeders' Cup Handicap at Fair Grounds looks like an extremely competitive race. But it should be noted that several entrants in the 1 1/8-mile turf race may not start, including co-highweight Baghdaria, and Christmas Lily is expected to be scratched.

That makes this race a great opportunity for several mares whose connections have been shopping for a turf race, in particular Elle Runaway, who has made two starts, both on dirt, since she ran third on turf in the Grade 2 Canadian at Woodbine last September.

Elle Runaway comes off a fourth in the Furl Sail, which was rained off the grass on New Year's Eve.

"Then there was an allowance turf race here about a month ago that we tried to get her in but it didn't fill," said trainer Malcolm Pierce. "It's been a frustrating winter, but she runs well fresh."

A 5-year-old daughter of El Prado, Elle Runaway did not win a race in 2006, but she placed in a pair of Grade 2 races. Finishing ahead of her in the Canadian were Ready's Gal and Arravale.

"She tries hard, and she gives you everything she's got every time you run her," said Pierce. "She had a good year, but she ended up second to a couple of good fillies. Arravale ended up being the champion turf filly in Canada last year."

Elle Runaway actually made the lead in the stretch of the Furl Sail, but Pierce thought it was a premature move.

"I blame myself," he said, "because it was Emma-Jayne Wilson's first time on her, and I never told her that she's got one little run and you've got to kind of use it at the right time. I didn't tell Emma when you think it's time to go, count to 10. She knows her now after having a ride on her, and I don't think she'll do that twice."

Pierce knows the race is competitive even if some of the big names do scratch.

"It is a tough spot," he admits. "Todd Pletcher's bringing J'ray out here, and Royal Copenhagen is a nice filly. If we can be one-two-three in there we shouldn't be discouraged at all."

J'ray, co-highweighted at 119 pounds, has finished a close second in each of her last three starts, all Grade 3 races. Royal Copenhagen, a Grade 3 winner, broke an eight-race losing streak in her most recent start, a third-level allowance race.