03/25/2004 12:00AM

Closing-night challenge


Spritely Walker, who is perhaps the best Louisiana-bred in training, will try to extend his winning streak to five on Saturday night when he moves into open company for the $100,000 Gulf Coast Classic at Delta Downs.

His task will not be easy. The 1 1/16-mile race has drawn a deep field of eight older horses, including Kodema, Crowned King, Prince Slew, and Classic Par.

The Gulf Coast is the closing-night feature at Delta. The track, which operates a slots casino, has had perhaps its most successful meet since opening 30 years ago.

Spritely Walker has been on a tear since last October, when he won the $82,000 Louisiana Breeders' Derby at Louisiana Downs at 12-1. From there, he was second in the $100,000 Gold Cup for statebreds at Delta on Nov. 15, then reeled off four straight wins at Fair Grounds and Delta.

Spritely Walker won the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic on Dec. 13; an optional claimer against open company Jan. 15; the $200,000 Louisiana Premier Night Championship on Feb. 7; and the $50,000 Bayou State for statebreds at Delta in his last start March 5.

"He's developed," said Steve Asmussen, who trains the 4-year-old Spritely Walker. "Physically, he's a way stronger horse than he was."

Through the win streak, Asmussen said two things have impressed him about Spritely Walker.

"Attitude and effort," he said. "He's a cocky little horse. He's proud of himself."

Shane Sellers has ridden Spritely Walker in his last three starts, but will miss the mount Saturday because he will be at Sunland Park to ride Sister Swank in the $250,000 WinStar Sunland Park Oaks. Asmussen trains Sister Swank for Heiligbrodt Racing Stable, which also owns Spritely Walker.

Curt Bourque has picked up the mount on Spritely Walker, who is a son of Skywalker and out of the same mare as multiple stakes winners Hope List, Knight Woman, and Knight Man.

Kodema made his last start at Delta, winning the $50,000 Delta Mile by four lengths. He has a stalk-and-pounce way of going, and again will get the services of leading rider Steve Bourque. David Carroll trains Kodema for Farfellow Farms.

One turn again for Zarb's Luck

Zarb's Luck cuts back from two turns to one for the $40,000 Cajun Express for statebreds at Delta on Saturday night. The last time he moved from two turns to one he earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 107. Zarb's Luck earned that number two starts ago for his 4 1/4-length win in the $100,000 Louisiana Premier Night Sprint.

In his most recent start, Zarb's Luck was a game second to Spritely Walker in the $50,000 Bayou State at Delta on March 5. That race was run over seven furlongs, which is a two-turn race at Delta. Zarb's Luck set the early pace, was overtaken and came back on against Spritely Walker.

Carlos Gonzalez has the mount on Zarb's Luck for trainer Edward Johnston.

Sam Houston

Coastalota and Sarastorm, who have each won the Double Your Flavor Stakes in the past, will square off in Saturday night's renewal of the $40,000 stakes for Texas-bred fillies and mares at Sam Houston Race Park.

Coastalota won the seven-furlong race in 2001, while Sarastorm's win in the Double Your Flavor came in 2003.