12/12/2006 12:00AM

Costa Rising gets a working vacation


As finales of drawn-out statebred-restricted stakes days go, the finish of last Saturday's Louisiana Champions Day Classic was not bad. Heavy favorite Costa Rising shrugged off a couple of different challengers, including upstart stretch-out sprinter Mean Butterbean at the head of the stretch. But there in the final 50 yards Mean Butterbean crept back closer to Costa Rising, and wound up missing by a head.

That made eight straight victories over Louisiana-bred competition for Costa Rising, who had to overcome post 10 and a testing pace to win his eighth race of the year. Game, yes, but worn out, no, according to trainer Joseph Stanley Boxie, who observed Costa Rising having a time of it Tuesday morning on the walking wheel outside Boxie's barn at the Evangeline Downs training center.

"He came out of it well," said Boxie, who trains Costa Rising for owner Charles Castille. "It just looked like he never raced, really. He was playing on the wheel this morning, out there kicking and squealing."

Costa Rising has started 13 times during 2006, and the Classic might have been it for the year. Boxie said Costa Rising would go back to the track Thursday, keeping the same four-day walk, fifth day light gallop pattern he has followed after previous races. But Costa Rising might not race again until the $200,000 Premier Night Championship on Feb. 3 at Delta Downs.

"We'll give him a little bit of time, and we'll play it by ear," said Boxie, who noted that he had run Costa Rising twice in about three weeks.

Boxie, a retired bus driver who hauls Costa Rising to his races himself, said he enjoyed Saturday's win in New Orleans - the thrill of victory, the coming purse money.

"It was really exciting," Boxie deadpanned. "Anytime you can make money it's exciting."

'Butterbean' adapts well to route

Mean Butterbean, meanwhile, could get another shot at Costa Rising in the Premier Night Championship, since trainer Victor Arceneaux said he was inclined to keep Mean Butterbean in route races. Mean Butterbean made 13 of his first 14 starts in sprints, and had finished fifth in his only two-turn try before Saturday's Classic. But at that nine-furlong trip it was Mean Butterbean, not Costa Rising, who was running fastest at the finish.

"When they turned for home, Costa Rising made his move, and I just kept telling myself, hopefully we can hang on for second," Arceneaux said. "Then all of a sudden, he just exploded. Before they posted it on the board, some people were saying 'You won' - it was close."

Five races before the Classic, Mean Butterbean's full brother, Brother Bean, showed why Arceneaux had been so high on him going into Champions Day. Brother Bean finished second in the Champions Day Sprint, but dueled on a torrid pace and did not give way readily to the crack Louisiana-bred sprinter Meteor Impact, who got an ideal stalking trip. Brother Bean was beaten one length in his stakes debut, but ran on gamely in a fast race; he shaded 1:10 for six furlongs, good for a 101 Beyer Speed Figure in just his fourth career start.

"What was impressive to me was that the rest of the field was seven lengths behind him," said Arceneaux.

There are no specific plans for Brother Bean, Arceneaux said, but he could take Mean Butterbean's spot in upcoming Louisiana-bred sprint stakes if his older brother pans out as a route horse.

Lecomte on horizon for Tony Terrific

If Tony Terrific can perform as well on dirt as he has on Polytrack and turf, Stonerside Stable and trainer Mike Stidham might have a legitimate contender for the 3-year-old stakes at Fair Grounds. Tony Terrific followed up on a debut win going two turns over Keeneland's synthetic racing surface with a half-length turf win over entry-level allowance foes last Friday, and the colt could make his next start in the Jan. 13 Lecomte Stakes, Stidham said.

Tony Terrific was bottled up on the inside for much of Friday's race, and Stidham said he thought that experience was beneficial. Clear at about the quarter pole, he swallowed the leaders with a nice turn of foot, then held off late-running Citi Smoke.

"We hope he's going to have that same kind of acceleration on dirt," Stidham said.

Stidham said the timing of the Lecomte means that if things go well he wouldn't have to rush Tony Terrific to make the race.

"We'll keep our options open, but the spacing is decent," he said. "He's got over five weeks."

Mystery Giver begins comeback

Saturday's $75,000 Buddy Diliberto Memorial Handicap drew a field of nine when entries were taken Monday, and the race is a good one for a listed stakes. It features the first start since June 3 for Purim, a graded stakes winner earlier in the year, and the first Fair Grounds start for Mystery Giver since March 2004. Mystery Giver, who has come back strongly after a serious injury and a year-plus layoff, won the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup three years in a row starting in 2002.

Others in the Diliberto, a 1 1/16-mile grass race, are Devilment, Cloudy's Knight, Raw Power, Dynareign, Rathor, Erroneous I.D., and Student Council.

* Fair Grounds announced last w