02/04/2007 1:00AM

Costa Rising best by a wide margin


Costa Rising, a horse about as wide as a piece of cardboard, made 13 starts during 2006, but that long, thin body keeps on churning out victories. In fact, his win Saturday in the Premier Night Championship on a $1 million night of Louisiana-bred racing at Delta Downs was one of the best races of Costa Rising's career.

Tracking the swift early pace of his primary rival, Mean Butterbean, Costa Rising and jockey Mario Reyes cruised up to the lead at the top of the short Delta stretch and quickly pulled away, winning the $194,000 Premier by 5 1/4 lengths. Costa Rising, winning for the 10th time in 16 career starts, now has won nine times in a row against Louisiana-bred competition. Owned by Charles Castille, the 4-year-old colt by Royal Strand is about the best thing - racing-wise, at least - that ever has happened to his trainer, Joseph Stanley Boxie, and his regular rider, Mario Reyes. During 2006, Costa Rising accounted for eight of Boxie's 11 wins; Reyes won 20 races all year, eight aboard his big horse.

Mean Butterbean came within a head of Costa Rising in the Louisiana Champions Day Classic in December at Fair Grounds, but on this night, after setting splits of 22.79 seconds for the first quarter-mile, 47.02 for the half, and 1:12.51 for three-quarters, he had no answer for Costa Rising's finishing kick. Mean Butterbean did finish 1 1/2 lengths clear of third-place Diggy Fresh, who was followed by Nitro Chip, Badtotheboneandrew, and Perfect Harmony. Costa Rising ($3.60) was timed in 1:45.09 for 1 1/16 miles on a fast track.

Sprint: Brother Bean long gone

Brother Bean's older full brother Mean Butterbean might not have been able to keep up with Costa Rising in the Championship, but no one could keep up with Brother Bean in the $100,000 Sprint. A 5 1/2-lebgth victory was Brother Bean's first win in a stakes race, but probably not his last.

Still lightly raced at age 4, Brother Bean balked while being loaded into the outside post in the nine-horse Sprint, then broke like a shot, opening daylight on the backstretch of the five-furlong race, and running alone through the stretch. Brother Bean, heavily favored, paid $3.60 to win while running five furlongs in 58.44 seconds for owner Brittlyn Stables, trainer Victor Arceneaux, and jockey Robby Albarado. Arcenenaux also took down the place spot with Kim's Gem, who was followed home by Cort's P.B.

Prince: Tortuga Straits's record still perfect

Tortuga Straits required a post-race medication violation to win his last start at Delta Downs, but he took the $125,000 Prince without any help. Because he was elevated to first in the Jean Lafitte Stakes in November, Tortuga Straits now boasts a record that shows six wins from six starts.

Tortuga Straits, trained by Ralph Irwin and ridden by Luis Quinonez, used his early speed to secure a good pace-pressing position after breaking from a wide post. He tracked early leader Target of Luck, then second choice Forgotten Prince before taking over in the stretch, drawing away to a 1 1/2-length victory. Tortuga Straits was timed in 1:28.02 for seven furlongs, and paid $3 to win.

Margarita Man stumbled and threw jockey Donnie Meche at the start of the race.

Princess: My Friend Bele digs deep

The 3-year-old filly My Friend Bele was starting in stakes races before she'd ever won a maiden race, and she validated trainer Jim Hudson's high opinion of her with a game win in the $125,000 Princess. While My Friend Bele made most of the pace under Delta's leading rider Tracy Hebert, favored Tensas Yucatan appeared to have her measured as the two fillies turned for home. But My Friend Bele ($21.60) dug in and held off her less experienced rival, winning by three-quarters of a length while running seven furlongs in 1:27.74, faster than Tortuga Straits's winning time in the Prince, for 3-year-old males.

* Raspberry Wine recorded one win in all of 2006, but already this year she has two stakes victories. After winning a Delta stakes by a nose in her most recent start, Raspberry Wine scored a more comfortable half-length win over Carl's Frosty Girl in the $100,000 Distaff. Favored Blueyed Lass finished last of seven.

* Odds-on favorite Indigo Girl won the Matron by 1 1/2 lengths.