11/28/2006 12:00AM

Currin no stranger to these parts

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Charles Pravata/Horsephotos
Freesgood, winning the Cal Cup Juvenile, runs in Friday's $1 million Delta Jackpot for trainer Bill Currin.

Currin's name became forever linked with Delta in 2002, when he swept in from Southern California and won the inaugural running of the Jackpot, which was worth $500,000, with Outta Here. He will return to Delta for the first time since then on Friday to run California Cup Juvenile winner Freesgood in the Jackpot.

Currin remembers his first trip to Delta well. The track, which has a slots casino and six-furlong oval, is located three miles off of Interstate 10, in a Louisiana-Texas border town that has a population of 3,390.

"I'm looking forward to going back to Delta," said Currin, 70. "It's something unique from, you know, going to Hong Kong or going to Dubai or to Hollywood Park or Santa Anita, and I enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun, and the money helps the matter. It's a princely amount of money."

In 2003, Delta increased the purse of the Jackpot to $1 million, making it the richest race in Louisiana. The Jackpot was awarded Grade 3 status for 2005, but when Hurricane Rita inflicted damage to the track and forced the cancellation of last year's meet, the Jackpot was not held. Friday, it will become the first graded Thoroughbred race ever run in the 33-year history of Delta.

Currin's continued support of the Jackpot has been good for the track, said Chris Warren, director of racing for Delta. Following the inaugural running, Outta Here shipped to Dubai and ran fourth in the $2 million UAE Derby, and one start later closed to finish seventh in the Kentucky Derby. The appearances in the two races immediately raised the profile of the Jackpot.

"He's a good a promoter for Delta, because he did good, he liked it here, and he's coming back," said Warren. "He's a good ambassador for our track."

Freesgood won the $125,000 California Cup Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles in his last start Oct. 28, a similarity he shares with a past winner of the Jackpot. Texcess won the Cal Cup Juvenile two starts before taking the most recent running of the Jackpot, in 2004.

According to Currin, in some ways Freesgood reminds him of Outta Here.

"A, they travel well, and B, they're comfortable within themselves." he said. "They're very sensible. You would think that they're 3- or 4-year-old geldings. And their style of running is quite similar."

The adaptability should help Freesgood in the Jackpot. He will be racing under the lights for the first time, on a six-furlong oval for the first time, and outside of California for the first time. Freesgood is 2 for 2 around two turns, and in his latest start he won the Cal Cup with an explosive move at the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Jackpot.

"He was running along, running along, and looked like he was going to be in the hunt, second or third," Currin said of the Cal Cup. "And then all of the sudden, a little hole popped, and he jumped right through and wins rather easily, going away."

Outta Here, who died from an infection following surgery in early 2006, used a closing kick to win the inaugural Jackpot. He was ridden that night by Kent Desormeaux, who will ride Freesgood on Friday.

"I made a promise when I won that first Delta Jackpot that Kent Desormeaux would be my go-to-rider for life, and that's about what's happened," said Currin.

Currin is having arguably his best year since he began training in 1972, and Desormeaux has been there for a number of the high points. He was aboard Currin's first Breeders' Cup starter, Stormello, when he finished fifth in this year's $2 million Juvenile. Desormeaux also guided Stormello to a win in the Grade 2 Norfolk.

Currin has a 20-horse stable based at Hollywood Park, and so far in 2006 he has won 14 races from 68 starts, for stable earnings of $908,309. Other top runners for him include Memorette, who won the Grade 2 Beverly Hills Handicap in June.

The barn's success is even sweeter because many of Currin's horses are homebreds, including Freesgood, whom Currin co-bred and co-owns with longtime racing partner Al Eisman. Freesgood is by Free House and out of the winning Housebuster mare Fun Project.

"All of the mares that I have, I've trained, because I've not gone out to purchase other people's broodmares," said Currin. "I create my own. Several years ago when I bought these [current broodmares] that were then yearlings, I bought them for racehorses and conformation, and now they're producing very good horses that have good conformation."

Freesgood will attempt to be the third California-based horse to take the Jackpot in four runnings. In Currin, he has the perfect tour guide for the task.