02/18/2005 1:00AM

Pawyne Princess needs A game

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NEW ORLEANS - Pawyne Princess, who smashed an allowance field in her first start at Fair Grounds, returns Sunday as the probable favorite in the $75,000 Chou Croute Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

Pawyne Princess will have to be on top of her game to handle Spectacular Lisa, last year's Chou Croute winner.

, a 4-year-old daughter of Saint Ballado, owned by Michael Gill and trained by Gamaliel Vazquez, finished second in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico last year and has been worse than third only once in seven lifetime starts. Also last year, she finished second, beaten a neck, in the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico against males, and ran third in the Wide Country at Laurel. She was freshened after winning an allowance race at The Meadowlands in October and came back running last month.

"She surprised me last time," said Vazquez, who will give a leg up to Carlos Marquez Jr., who is returning from a suspension Sunday. "She went from last to first at the top of the stretch. She's got a long stride on her. She's only going to improve."

Gill is extremely high on Pawyne Princess, whom he hopes to send on to the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park and, eventually, the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Vazquez is slightly more measured in his assessment of the filly.

"I want to take it one step at a time," he said. "She's a very good filly. She's been training well and put on a little more weight, which we wanted to see. She's got some more distance in her."

was one of the stars of the 2003-2004 Fair Grounds meet, winning an optional claimer on turf and the Chou Croute. Between those two races, she won the Houston Distaff Handicap at Sam Houston. A 5-year-old Formal Gold mare, trained by Michael Stidham and ridden by Robby Albarado, Spectacular Lisa returned from a 10-month layoff on Jan. 7 at Fair Grounds and finished second behind Storm's Darling, who is also in the Chou Croute.

, a Bobby Barnett-trained 4-year-old by Storm Boot, was fourth as the favorite in the Truly Bound last out, losing to Shadow Cast.

Chou Croute entrant Family Business was also in the Truly Bound, and briefly held the lead before succumbing to the winner.

So Much More, a 6-year-old Chimes Band mare trained by Josie Carroll, won the $75,000 Treasure Chest at Delta Downs in December and usually takes home a check.

Oneofacat is trained by Neil Howard, who has won five stakes races at the Fair Grounds meet.