12/06/2007 1:00AM

Costa Rising tough to beat

EmailLouisiana Champions Day begins at 350 yards, but by race 10, the distances have increased to 1 1/8 miles. That nine-furlong trip of the Champions Day Classic might be the undoing of the Louisiana-bred star Costa Rising - if there were anyone good enough to run him down.

"My gut feeling is he's not a true mile and an eighth horse," said Costa Rising's trainer, Glenn Delahoussaye. "He's a brilliant miler."

But Costa Rising hung on to win the 2006 Champions Day Classic in a gritty performance and might be better now. With a short field of less accomplished rivals entered against him, not much stands between Costa Rising and yet another Louisiana-bred stakes win.

Much will have occurred before Costa Rising takes to the track in race 10. The 11-race card begins with three Quarter Horse races - watch for unbeaten Senor Seabolt in the Quarter Horse Juvenile and the excellent mare Angelas Toast in the Quarter Horse Classic - before moving on to the eight-race Thoroughbred menu. In all, $1.1 million in purses are available for horses bred in the Pelican State.

Costa Rising is based in the heart of Louisiana horse country at the Evangeline Downs training center and has a pure Louisiana pedigree: By Royal Strand and out of a mare by List. But the 4-year-old colt is a runner.

A measured 2 1/2-length win in the Nov. 17 Gold Cup at Delta Downs gave Costa Rising his 13th win from 21 starts; on dirt, he has won 10 of 16. He is far and away the leading older Louisiana-bred route horse going, and he trounced the Grade 3-type Super Frolic by more than 12 lengths this summer in the Evangeline Mile.

Bettors looking for chinks will point out that Costa Rising returns just 21 days after his last win, but Delahoussaye took that into account.

"I don't want to sound grandiose to say I used a $100,000 race to prep him, but that's what happened," Delahoussaye said. "I had to train him for two races and, according to what I'm seeing in his training, I think the last race moved him forward."

The Classic could scratch down to five if Tortuga Straits and Liquid Silver both opt into the Sprint. That might leave decent horses like Southern Invasion, second to Costa Rising last out at Delta, chasing an odds-on favorite.

"I'm hoping we haven't seen the best of my horse yet," said Southern Invasion's trainer, Keith Bourgeois.