11/19/2003 1:00AM

Delta feasting on full fields

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Delta Downs, which has been able to increase purses because of slot machines, now hardly ever has an open slot in the starting gate. The track is averaging 9.6 starters a race this meet, with 10 the maximum that can run.

"We were a shade over nine last year," said racing secretary Trent McIntosh.

McIntosh said foal papers for 3,500 horses are on file with the racing office, meaning they have been registered to race this meet at Delta, up from 2,700 at the same time a year ago. The stable area, which holds 1,260 horses, is full.

"We've got quite a few new trainers," he said.

Delta, which opened its 2002 meet at $160,000 a day in purses, is averaging $190,000 a day this meet. The track's richest race, the $1 million Delta Jackpot for 2-year-olds, will be run Dec. 5.

* Zarb's Luck, who stretched his speed around two turns last Saturday night in the $100,000 Gold Cup, will make his next start on the Louisiana Champions Day card at Fair Grounds on Dec. 13, said his co-owner and trainer, Edward Johnston.

Zarb's Luck will try to defend his title in the $100,000 Sprint. Another objective for the horse is the $100,000 Louisiana Premier Night Sprint at Delta on Feb. 7.

The Gold Cup was a rare two-turn appearance for Zarb's Luck, who is 6.

"He's getting older now, and he settles a little bit and he might be able to go further," Johnston said. "His sire, Zarbyev, his offspring get better as they get older."

o Fitzroyal, who was an 8 1/2-length winner of the $50,000 Spirit of Texas over six furlongs at Sam Houston Race Park, could make his next start in the $50,000 Marshland at Delta on Dec. 5, said his owner, Mark Cornett.