03/21/2003 12:00AM

Gulf Coast brings down the curtain

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The slots-rich Delta Downs in Vinton, La., has saved the best for last. The track will close out its Thoroughbred meet Sunday night with the $150,000 Gulf Coast Handicap, and the 1 1/16-mile race, which is the track's richest open-company stakes for older horses, drew a competitive field of 10.

Ask the Lord has been knocking on the door in stakes company in his last two starts, and could be sitting on a peak effort for the Gulf Coast, which has also lured Neon Shadow, the 121-pound highweight, the versatile Seainsky, and Connected, winner of the $75,000 Louisiana Handicap two races back at Fair Grounds.

Ask the Lord is looking for his first stakes win. He finished a troubled third to Valhol in the $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston Race Park on Jan. 22, then returned a month later and ran a game second to Colorful Tour in the mud in the Grade 3, $100,000 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park.

Since that race, Colorful Tour has gone on to win the Grade 3, $100,000 Razorback, and is considered a leading contender for the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap.

Ask the Lord, weighted at 120 pounds in the Gulf Coast, will break from post 1.

"He's a sharp horse right now," said Al Stall Jr., who trains Ask the Lord. "He's just been getting better with age, and his pedigree says he's supposed to."

A 6-year-old son of Lord at War and the Slew o'Gold mare Acquisitive, Ask the Lord races for Stewart Madison. Overall, he has won seven races and $210,240, and will be ridden by Corey Lanerie.

Neon Shadow, now 9, will be making his first start since Nov. 2, when he was a two-length winner of a money allowance at Churchill Downs over stakes winners Parade Leader and Connected.

He has worked well for his comeback, and his natural speed makes him dangerous. Lonnie Meche has the mount for trainer Carl Bowman.

On the undercard, Mike n'Doc, who ran a huge race last out when he won a conditioned allowance, takes on two colts seeking their third straight win in the $50,000 Au Revoir.

The five-furlong race is restricted to 3-year-olds bred in Louisiana.

Spritely Walker and Zina Cause have each won their last two starts, but they still have to beat Mike n'Doc, who earned a 97 Beyer Figure for his more than six-length win March 13.

Kerwin Clark has the mount for Vinton Crosby and trainer Ann Watermeier.

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