11/28/2006 1:00AM

Birdbirdistheword heads Jackpot 11


Getting a grade was good for business. Delta Downs was awarded Grade 3 status this year for its richest race, the $1 million Delta Jackpot, and when entries for Friday night's 1 1/16-mile stakes for 2-year-olds were taken on Tuesday, the race drew 11. The field size is limited to 10.

The Delta Jackpot's morning-line favorite at 3-1 is Birdbirdistheword, the fourth-place finisher in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity who will break from post 8.

Also chief among the entries are the field's two graded stakes winners - Xchanger, the Grade 3 Sapling victor who will break from the rail, and Officer Rocket, dead-heat winner of the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity, who drew gate 5.

The Jackpot is the richest race in Louisiana. It returns from a one-year hiatus brought about by Hurricane Rita, and will be run as a graded race for the first time. In all, there are five stakes worth more than $1.5 million on the card, including the $300,000 Delta Princess, which drew Grade 1 winners Appealing Zophie and Meadow Breeze.

The Jackpot has been one of the nation's richest races for 2-year-olds since its first running in 2002, and with graded status this year its rich purse takes on even greater meaning for horsemen with promising 2-year-olds soon to turn 3. The first-place check is $600,000.

"It's fantastic," said Ken McPeek, who trains Birdbirdistheword. "I mean, if you can get your graded money early on, then you can certainly relax as far as not having to worry about getting in the Kentucky Derby."

Robby Albarado will ride Birdbirdistheword, who earlier this year won the $100,000 Juvenile at Louisiana Downs. The field from the rail with riders is Xchanger, Joe Bravo; Malt Magic, Victor Espinoza; Scatter the Tak, Donnie Meche; Go Poppa Fooze, Jamie Theriot; Officer Rocket, Tracy Hebert; Ice Man Cometh, Rafael Bejarano; Mistycal Light, Brian Hernandez; Birdbirdistheword, Robby Albarado; Pirates Deputy, Garrett Gomez; and Freesgood, Kent Desormeaux. Liquidity, trained by Doug O'Neill, was excluded.

Delta has a six-furlong oval, but the field will have a three-furlong run to the first turn after starting in a chute at the top of the stretch. The race will be run around two turns, with a distance of 660 feet from the last turn to the finish line.

The Jackpot will go as the eighth race, at 9:30 p.m. Central, and it serves as the final leg of a $50,000 guaranteed all-stakes pick four. The pick four begins in the fifth race, the $100,000 Sam's Town, which drew Charley Tango.

The next leg is the Delta Princess, a one-mile race for 2-year-old fillies that drew seven. Matron winner Meadow Breeze and Spinaway winner Appealing Zophie drew side-by-side in the gate. Meadow Breeze will break from post 3 under Steve Bourque, while Donnie Meche will be aboard Appealing Zophie in post 4.

The third leg of the pick four is the $100,000 Treasure Chest, led by Culinary. The other stakes on the program is the $50,000 Zydeco.

The forecast for Friday is a high of 54 degrees and a low of 32. First post is 6:20 p.m. Central.