11/16/2006 12:00AM

Costa Rising back fast after loss

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Costa Rising is returning to the Louisiana-bred ranks for Saturday night's $100,000 Gold Cup at Delta Downs, and although he won six straight statebred races between April and August, he finds himself in the unusual position of having questions to answer heading into the 1 1/16-mile race. Costa Rising is returning on short rest, he comes into the race off two rare defeats, and he is making his first start over the six-furlong track at Delta.

"There are questions we just can't answer until we run," said Charles Castille Jr., who owns Costa Rising.

The Gold Cup is one of four stakes that are worth a cumulative $275,000 on the card. The stakes are all restricted to Louisiana-breds, and are designed to serve as preps for the Louisiana Champions Day program next month at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

Costa Rising is being pointed for Louisiana Champions Day, but his first order of business is the Gold Cup, said Castille. The colt last raced at Churchill Downs on Nov. 11, and finished sixth, beaten 5 1/4 lengths, after setting the pace over good turf in the $169,000 Commonwealth.

"I think he just didn't like that track," said Castille. "It was really, really soft."

Castille said Costa Rising vanned on Monday back to Evangeline Downs, where he is based with trainer Joseph Boxie, and has come back so well he was entered in the Gold Cup.

"I know it's quick to run him back," Castille said. "But he came out of the race really, really good. He's feeling great. We'll jog him [Friday], and if he grabs the bit and bows his head, I mean, he's ready to go. If he doesn't, I'll scratch him."

Castille also noted that the Commonwealth was Costa Rising's first start in about seven weeks, following his fourth-place finish in the Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby. Castille said he hopes the losses in the colt's last two starts will not affect Costa Rising's confidence. He is also hopeful the colt will like Delta, where there will be a three-furlong run into the first turn for the Gold Cup.

"I like that he's got that long chute, because he'll get in position there," said Castille. "There's one other horse with speed in it, and if [Costa Rising] is first or second down the chute, I think we're in pretty good shape."

Costa Rising, a four-time stakes winner of $274,946, will be ridden by Mario Reyes. Among his chief rivals are Tommy's Turn and Willtosucceed, who have each placed in stakes won by Costa Rising this year. Tommy's Turn has won his last two starts, both on turf, and Willtosucceed was third in an allowance sprint for statebreds in his last start, on Oct. 12.

* Grand Facile, who defeated open company last out in the $52,000 Delicada, returns to the Louisiana-bred ranks in the $75,000 Magnolia. The one-mile race for fillies and mares drew a field of 10, among them stakes winners Calista Ridge, Leesa Lee, Cutie Sabrina, and Leestown Light. Tracy Hebert has the mount on Grand Facile for trainer Jim Hodges.

* Margarita Man makes his first start since winning the $100,000 Stardust at Louisiana Downs in August in the $50,000 Calcasieu for 2-year-olds at five furlongs. Trainer Scott Blasi has given the mount to Jamie Theriot.

* Zarb's Ballerina, who has won both of her starts, seeks her first stakes win in the $50,000 Creme de la Creme for 2-year-old fillies at five furlongs. Hodges has given the mount to Hebert.

* There is a special Tuesday afternoon card at Delta on Nov. 21 because the track will not race on Thanksgiving, Nov. 23.