02/21/2004 1:00AM

'Witch' one to beat on grass


Danny Peitz would rather race at Oaklawn Park instead of Fair Grounds each winter if all things were equal. But they're not.

"You've got to go where there's a turf course, especially since I'm a little top-heavy with grass horses right now," said Peitz, a veteran trainer from Little Rock, Ark. "I'd love to race at Oaklawn because it's home for me. But I like it in New Orleans, too, and we've had some success in the five years I've been coming here."

Having been based primarily in New York for the last 10 years or so, Peitz, 46, has engineered a major overhaul of his stable, which formerly was comprised mostly of mid-level claiming types but now is slanted toward horses with classier, turf-dominated pedigrees. Typifying that evolution is , a 4-year-old filly who figures to be the horse to beat Monday in the Fair Grounds feature, a $30,000 allowance scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

"The ironic thing about coming here is sometimes you don't get to run on the grass as much as you'd hope," said Peitz. "It's supposed to rain pretty good Sunday night into Monday morning, so that might rain the races off the grass. If that's the case, I don't know if I'd run or not, but the main thing is this filly should turn out allright when she gets to run on the grass on a regular basis. She's a real nice filly."

Witch Approval, a gray daughter of With Approval, would be making her fifth career start if she runs in the eighth of 10 Thoroughbred races scheduled for Monday (five additional Quarter Horse races precede the card beginning at 10 a.m. Central). After a respectable showing in her career debut on closing day of the 2002-03 Fair Grounds meet, she underwent minor ankle surgery before returning this fall, finally winning a maiden race in her fourth overall start.

"She had the trip from hell [two starts back], then won 'the right way' in her last race," said Peitz.

Witch Approval was bred and is owned by Robert and Lawana Low, who raced the standout sprinter, Capote Belle, with Peitz in the mid-1990's. The Lows live in Springfield, Mo., although they spend a lot of time in the New Orleans region as owners of The Palace casino and hotel in Biloxi, Miss., about an hour away.

If the Monday feature is transferred to the main track, Baviera might rate the best chance in a depleted field.