06/26/2003 12:00AM

Firm turf key for Bien Nicole

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BOSSIER CITY, La. - The footing should be firmer for Bien Nicole on Saturday when she takes on 10 fillies and mares in the $50,000 Honeymoon Stakes at Louisiana Downs.

The race, to be run at about a mile on turf, also drew defending champ Due to Win Again, and Lone Star Park shippers Naturally Wild and Golden Rhythm.

Soft turf did not agree with Bien Nicole in her last start, trainer, Donnie Von Hemel said. In that race, she finished an uncharacteristic sixth as the favorite in the Grade 3, $200,000 WinStar Distaff at Lone Star on May 26.

It was the only time in her career that Bien Nicole has finished off-the-board on turf in 14 starts. She went on a tear on the surface last year, winning five consecutive races on turf. During that run, four of those wins came in stakes races, among them the $150,000 River Cities Breeders' Cup over the course at Louisiana Downs.

Tim Doocy has the mount in the Honeymoon, taking over for regular rider Don Pettinger, who has been named to ride Grade 1 winner See How She Runs in the $100,000 Saylorville Stakes at Prairie Meadows on Saturday.

Bien Nicole, a winner of 10 of 20 starts and $529,580, races for her breeders, John and Kristine Richter.

Due to Win Again will get back to turf, her best surface, after finishing fourth last out in the $50,000 Bayakoa at Oaklawn on April 6.

"We gave her a little break after that race, freshened her up," said Eddie Ruiz, who trains Due to Win Again.

Last year, the mare pressed the pace en route to a three-quarters of a length win in the Honeymoon over Golden Rhythm. Carlos Gonzalez has the mount on Due to Win Again for her breeders, Howard and Penny Scarberry.