12/05/2006 12:00AM

Baffert-trained pair hit the jackpot


VINTON, La. - Trainer Bob Baffert had a productive trip to Delta Downs, where his two starters in Friday night's Grade 3, $1 million Delta Jackpot combined to earn $240,000. Pirates Deputy picked up $200,000 in graded earnings for his runner-up finish to Birdbirdistheword, a sum that gives him a leg up when it comes to getting into next year's Kentucky Derby. Malt Magic was fourth in the Jackpot and earned $40,000.

"They both ran their heart out," Baffert said after the race. "They go back to California, and we just freshen them up and get them ready for the classics."

The Jackpot was run as a graded race for the first time Friday, and Pirates Deputy was the favorite. He came into the race off a runner-up finish in the $125,000 California Cup Juvenile in his first start for Baffert. One start earlier, he won his maiden in a route stakes at Emerald Downs. Pirates Deputy trailed the rest of the field for more than the first half-mile in the Jackpot, and put in a strong stretch bid to finish three-quarters of a length back in second.

"He's just one-paced, and things have to sort of set up for him, and he ran out of ground," said Baffert. "But it was good, though."

Malt Magic raced with the pace in the Jackpot.

"He went out there, he was really clicking away," said Baffert. "I wanted him out there. But he came back, he was exhausted. But you know what, at least he showed and he tried to run today. He had two bad trips [before], but he's learning."

Malt Magic did not get close to the pace in his previous two starts, when he stumbled at the start and raced wide to finish 12th in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and also finished sixth in the Grade 2 Norfolk. Malt Magic is a full brother to Sir Cherokee, winner of the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby.

Pirates Deputy is a composed gelding by multiple Grade 1 winner Bertrando. He's earned $301,637, and the runner-up finish in the Jackpot is a nice credential. Closing Argument ran second in the 2004 running, then went on to finish second in the following year's Kentucky Derby.

Baffert was at Delta to saddle his horses Friday. "I've never been here," he said. "It's nice. I really like the setup and the people were very kind here, very gracious."

Delta has opened a new hotel that is attached to the grandstand, and many of the rooms overlook the racetrack so guests can not only see live races, but also wake up to horses training. Hotel guests can also bet races from the hotel rooms at Delta.

The Jackpot was one of five stakes on the card Friday. Next year's corresponding program will have a similar format. "I think we'll stick with the same plan," said Jack Bernsmeier, who manages Delta.

Miss Atlantic City to New Orleans

Miss Atlantic City, who won last Friday night's $300,000 Delta Princess in a field that included Grade 1 winners Appealing Zophie and Meadow Breeze, might race next in New Orleans.

"There's a great stakes program with progressing distances and nice spacing at the Fair Grounds for 3-year-old fillies, so that's what we're looking forward to," said her trainer, Keith Desormeaux.

Miss Atlantic City picked up the second stakes win of her career in the one-mile Princess. She had won her maiden in the $100,000 John Franks Memorial Sales Futurity in August. Desormeaux's brother, Kent, rode Miss Atlantic City for the first time in the Princess.

"She really told me what to do the entirety of the race," said Kent Desormeaux.

Kent said the win was the first stakes victory he has had for Keith, albeit from very limited stakes tries.

"We're on different ends of the country most of the time," said Keith Desormeaux. "We've won a few races together, mainly in California when I trained there, but we'd never won a stakes together."

Keith Desormeaux is now based in Louisiana, and Kent rides in New York and Florida. The brothers have teamed for 22 wins together from 114 starts overall, for earnings of $715,075.

The Delta-based Meadow Breeze, who dueled with Appealing Zophie and finished sixth in the Princess, could also turn up next at Fair Grounds, said her trainer, Carl Deville.

"She came back good," he said. "We scoped her and she had a little bit of mucus. We'll give her a month, six weeks off, and bring her back as a 3-year-old."

Meadow Breeze won the Matron at Belmont in September.

Rich double for Albarado

With his win aboard Birdbirdistheword in the Jackpot, jockey Robby Albarado completed a sweep of the two richest races for Thoroughbreds this year in Louisiana. Back in September, he won the Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs with Strong Contender.

o Total Command gives up recency to his rivals in the featured allowance Thursday night, but should go favored in the one-mile race for his consistent form and competitive Beyer Figures.