01/12/2011 4:03PM

Delta Downs cards pair of rich 3-year-old stakes

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Dustin Orona Photography
Su Casa G Casa will be a pace presence in the $250,000 Jean Lafitte.

With its tight-turned bullring configuration, shadowy night racing, and a tricky track surface some horses fail to handle, Delta Downs is full of potential pitfalls. It seems like it takes a certain sort of horse to successfully ship in to the little track in Western Louisiana.

“I think it does,” said trainer Bret Calhoun. “But I just don’t know what it is, except for trying them.”

Fortunately for Calhoun, he has two horses for a pair of rich 3-year-old races Friday night who already have shown that Delta is doable. Su Casa G Casa starts in the $250,000 Jean Lafitte, and was beaten a neck in the $250,000 Louisiana Legacy on Nov. 20 at Delta. For the $200,000 My Trusty Cat for 3-year-old fillies, Calhoun sends out Delta-debuting Gran Lioness as well as Grandacious, who was a close third in the Delta Princess on Nov. 20. Thirteen of the 17 horses in the two stakes are shipping in to Delta.

The Trusty Cat has a smaller purse than the Jean Lafitte, but probably the deeper field. Besides Calhoun’s pair, the seven-furlong race also includes unbeaten Flash Mash and Tensas Punch, a good-looking winner of her only Delta start.

Gran Lioness finished fourth in the Pocahontas and fifth in the Golden Rod at Churchill Downs last fall, but before those defeats had won two of her first three races.

“In hindsight, I think she was kind of tailing off on me,” Calhoun said. “I don’t think she was quite herself, but maybe the distance was too long, maybe the competition was too tough. I think she’s back on top of her game.”

Calhoun said he’s been pointing Gran Lioness to the My Trusty Cat for quite some time. In the case of Grandacious, owner Carl Moore decided to send her to the My Trusty Cat the day before entries were taken rather than aiming for the Silverbulletday Stakes on Jan. 22 at Fair Grounds.

“I can understand his thought process, with how well she ran over there,” Calhoun said.

Flash Mash, who may be favored, won her debut over Keeneland’s Polytrack surface, then captured a six-furlong Fair Grounds dirt allowance race by more than 10 lengths on Nov. 27. Tensas Punch rallied strongly to win the $250,000 Louisiana Jewel on Nov. 20 at Delta, and may find a strong pace at which to run in the My Trusty Cat.

Speedy Su Casa G Casa figures to be prominent throughout the one-mile Jean Laffitte. “I don’t think he has to be on the lead, but going two turns he’s just a naturally fast horse,” Calhoun said. Su Casa G Casa’s only previous race beyond a sprint distance came in the Louisiana Legacy at Delta. There, a longshot who bolted on the second turn hounded him through a hot early pace, and Su Casa G Casa was nipped late, finishing second. Su Casa G Casa came back to win the Louisiana Champions Day Sprint in December, and is well drawn Friday outside the race’s other major pace player, Decisive Moment.

Based in Florida with trainer Juan Arias, Decisive Moment makes his first start since finishing second at odds of 48-1 in the Nov. 20 Delta Jackpot. Decisive Moment remains eligible for a first-level allowance race after five career starts, but thanks to close finishes in the Jackpot and a division of the Florida Stallion Stakes, he has banked more than $276,000 for owner-breeder Just for Fun Stable.