02/19/2002 12:00AM

Roussel holds the best cards


NEW ORLEANS - Louie Roussel holds the keys to the featured ninth race at Fair Grounds. For starters, Roussel has entered the most logical winner, Bold Diva, and she is part of an entry with Extended View, whose participation would change the whole complexion of the race.

Roussel, whose winning percentage has risen steadily through the last couple months of this meet and currently is 22, owns and trains both fillies, who ran as an entry and finished one-two in a Jan. 24 fourth-level sprint allowance with a $100,000 claiming option. Bold Diva won the race, rallying strongly in the final furlong to edge Extended View by a half-length. Bold Diva raced out of her natural allowance conditions that day, and so runs back in exactly the same kind of race she won three weeks ago.

Roussel named the same rider on both halves of his entry Thursday, but don't automatically assume one will scratch. Eddie Martin was named on both fillies the last time they were entered, and Roussel gave the mount on Bold Diva to Donnie Meche, who's named on both fillies Thursday.

What Roussel does is crucial. Extended View's best running style is pure speed, and her presence in the field ensures a fast pace that will aid all the front-runners, Bold Diva included. Extended View, one of four horses in a field of seven still eligible for a third-level allowance, is herself capable of winning, since her last race came after a three-month layoff and Roussel suggested the filly might have been a start away from her best.

The others who actually fit the race's conditions are Mike's Sister, who seems to have tailed off after putting in a big run in December, and No Other Name, who either will be Extended View's primary pace rival or the controlling speed of the race if Extended View scratches. No Other Name, who's trained by Ronny Werner and owned by Tom Durant, has won consecutive races.

After an eye-catching second-level allowance win, Dominica was entered and scratched from the Pan Zareta Handicap here two weekends ago, and now finds the allowance spot trainer Blackie Huffman wanted all along. She could make an impact in this spot.

So could Run for Little Bit, who has yet to lose in three career starts, and who beat Bold Diva in their common career debut here last season. As impressive as Run for Little Bit's unbeaten career looks on the surface, it's crucial to note her two wins here after a 10-month layoff came by a neck and a head, and she's stepping into tougher company Thursday.

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