12/02/2004 1:00AM

All signs point to Texcess in Jackpot

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Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Texcess, with Denise Falk, walks the shed row at Delta Downs, preparing for Saturday's $1 million Delta Jackpot.

VINTON, La. - Some of the horses in Saturday's $1 million for 2-year-olds at Delta Downs have run well on smaller tracks like the six-furlong oval in Vinton. Others have won under the lights. And still others have performed well following long ship-ins. But the horse in the Delta Jackpot who seems best suited to handle all of those variables at once is Texcess.

Texcess made his career debut at Fairplex Park, a five-furlong track. He trains under the lights each morning in California. And he was alert and composed on Thursday, one day after a cross-country flight from Southern California to run in the Jackpot, the second richest 2-year-old stakes in North America behind only the $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

"Everything's gone 100 percent perfect," said his co-owner and trainer, Paul Aguirre.

It doesn't hurt that Texcess's last two wins have come at the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Jackpot, and that Aguirre will make a meaningful adjustment to Texcess's blinkers on Saturday.

The Jackpot is the richest race in Louisiana, and its purse is entirely funded by slot machine revenue. There are four stakes on the card, which offers $1.4 million in purses. Combined, the stakes form a $50,000 guaranteed pick four. First post for the 10-race card is 3 p.m. Central, and the Jackpot, which will go as the eighth, will be run under the lights.

Texcess is riding a two-race win streak into the Jackpot, where he will meet nine other promising colts, including Funk and Leaving on My Mind. Texcess won his maiden in the $125,000 California Cup Juvenile on Oct. 16, then returned in his last start to defeat open company in an entry-level allowance at his Hollywood Park base Nov. 14.

Texcess ran in spurts that day, and as a result, Aguirre has decided to uncover the peep holes in his blinkers. "We're going to open them up and see if he relaxes a little more," said Aguirre. "That might make him a little more comfortable, when he can see what's behind him."

Texcess ran the 1 1/16 miles in a sharp 1:42.60 in his last race, and was prominent throughout.

"As long as he's up close, he ought to run a good race," said Aguirre. Victor Espinoza will ride.

Funk also figures to be with the pace. He is the lone horse in the field who is graded-stakes placed, running second last out in the Grade 3 Laurel Futurity. That race was his first in five weeks, and he finished two lengths behind Defer, who is 2 for 3, having lost only to Rockport Harbor, the winner of last week's Remsen.

"I thought [Funk] ran well," said Todd Pletcher, his trainer. "It was his first time against stakes company, and he was kind of part of the pace and fought on pretty well in his first out in a little while."

Pletcher is hopeful Funk will take to the smaller oval and new surface in the Jackpot. "He's been adaptable that way," he said, noting that the colt won under the lights in a Meadowlands allowance Oct. 14.

Leaving on My Mind has won at Delta, capturing the $100,000 Jean Lafitte on Nov. 6. He is also the richest member of the field, with a bankroll of $299,873. His trainer, Danny Pish, has given the mount to Roman Chapa, who won last year's Jackpot with Mr. Jester.

Other horses of note in the race include United, who has kept good company throughout his career; Cherokee Path, who makes his two-turn debut; and Closing Argument and Anthony J., who in their last starts each placed in stakes at Calder Race Course.

"This is a very similar racetrack [to Calder]," said Bill Perry, who trains Anthony J. "It's the same color. I think both have a lot of sand in them."

Perry is hoping for a speed duel, which would help set up the Jackpot for the late-running Anthony J.

Forecasters are calling for showers and a high of 59 degrees on Saturday. The Jackpot will be broadcast on TVG.

The field

Delta Jackpot
Purse: $1 million; 1 1/16 miles

PPHORSEJOCKEYWT.ODDS
1Major LeagueC. Lanerie11920-1
2Leaving on My MindR. Chapa1199-2
3UnitedG. Melancon11915-1
4My ParadeF. Rodriguez11930-1
5FunkE. Martin Jr.1172-1
6TexcessV. Espinoza1193-1
7Cherokee PathG. Smith11712-1
8Anthony J.J. Velez Jr.1178-1
9Closing ArgumentC. Velasquez1196-1
10AccurateN. Arroyo Jr.11915-1

* Morning line odds