01/31/2008 12:00AM

Heiligbrodt entry tops Championship


With divisional standout Costa Rising sidelined until the spring, Saturday night's $200,000 Premier Night Championship at Delta Downs will require more in-depth handicapping. There are 10 well-matched older Louisiana-breds to sort through, led by the Heiligbrodt Racing Stable-owned entry of Magic Sunset and Hallway.

The Championship, at 1 1/16 miles, is the richest of six Louisiana-bred stakes on the annual Premier Night program. There also are four statebred starter races on the card for total purses of $1 million.

The entry could go favored. Magic Sunset is based at Delta, where in his last start he had a wide trip and finished second by a half-length in the $58,000 Cypress. The seven-furlong race was run around two turns, and Magic Sunset, after breaking last from the rail, closed from well back. He earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 92.

"Our racing luck wasn't the best, but he came up and finished second and showed a lot of courage getting there," said Jim Hudson, who trains Magic Sunset. "His biggest asset is his heart. He tries hard every race."

Hudson likes the move to 1o1/16 miles for Magic Sunset. The last time the horse raced at the distance, he was third in the $100,000 Gold Cup at Delta on Nov. 17, beaten four lengths by Costa Rising.

Hallway ran second to Costa Rising in the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic at Fair Grounds Dec. 8. Costa Rising won by 15 lengths that afternoon and has since been sidelined. Hallway, meanwhile, moved back to turf and was beaten a neck in the $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace at Fair Grounds on Jan. 5.

"He ran excellent last time," said Steve Asmussen, who trains Hallway. "He was second in the turf stakes. He's versatile in that regard, surface-wise."

Hallway, to be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, and Magic Sunset, with Don Simington, are both closers.

Willist comes into the Championship off a pair of turf stakes wins, the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf and the Dixie Poker Ace. Willist also is a multiple winner on dirt. He will break from post 10 under Miguel Mena.

"He likes to be right close to the pace," said Kelly Broussard, who trains Willist.

Nicks saddles two good ones

Trainer Morris Nicks has the possible favorite in each of the card's two stakes for fillies and mares. He will send out multiple stakes winner Smitty's Sunshine in the $100,000 Matron at five furlongs, while Tensas Yucatan goes to bat for him in the $150,000 Distaff at a mile. Both will be ridden by Robby Albarado.

Tensas Yucatan is moving back to dirt following a dominant allowance win on turf at Fair Grounds. She is a multiple stakes winner on the grass and has placed in three dirt stakes.

"We're going to give her another shot on the dirt," Nicks said. "I think this filly's a lot better on turf, but she's run some good races on the dirt."

Tensas Yucatan's last dirt race came Dec. 8, when she was second in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies at Fair Grounds. She finished in front of a number of the rivals she meets Saturday.

Smitty's Sunshine is making a rare appearance on dirt and in the Louisiana-bred ranks. A multiple stakes winner, she last raced on the main track in July and won the off-the-turf $100,000 Distaff Sprint at Calder.

* In the $125,000 Prince for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs, the undefeated Erlroy and 11-length maiden winner Bluehard will make their stakes debuts against Cubera. Cubera is a stakes winner at Fair Grounds who also has a seven-furlong allowance win at Delta.

* Superior Storm, T C's Charmer, and Hisse appear to be the top contenders in the $125,000 Starlet.

* All Wired Up returns to Delta, where he is 5 for 6, for the $100,000 Sprint.