07/24/2006 11:00PM

High Strike Zone back in prime form


High Strike Zone went over the $500,000 mark in earnings last Saturday at Louisiana Downs, winning the $75,000 Ark-La-Tex Handicap for the second straight year. His next target is the $150,000 Evangeline Mile at his Evangeline Downs base on Aug. 12, according to his trainer, Amos Laborde.

High Strike Zone pushed his earnings to $539,760 with a front-running win in the Ark-La-Tex. He set a quick pace and went on to a clear win the 1 1/16-mile race, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 96.

"He ran some good fractions," said Laborde. "They thought he was going to quit. He never quit. He kept on rolling."

High Strike Zone came into the Ark-La-Tex off a front-running win in a one-mile optional claimer at Evangeline Downs. Earlier this year he set a track record at Evangeline of 1:08.97 in a six-furlong allowance race.

"He's back to his prime," said Laborde.

High Strike Zone registered his biggest win in the Grade 3, $300,000 Texas Mile at Lone Star Park in 2005. He is a son of Smart Strike and races for Donald W. Erickson. His regular rider is Ricky Faul.

Costa Rising eyes Breeders' Derby

The competition has not been able to get a whiff of Costa Rising since he was moved to two turns in April. He won his fifth straight race last Friday and will be an odds-on favorite next month when he runs in the $100,000 Louisiana Breeders' Derby.

The 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old Louisiana-breds will be run Aug. 19.

Costa Rising has won his last five starts by a combined 18 lengths. He has won stakes on both dirt and turf during the streak, with his latest score coming on the grass, when he wired the field in the $75,000 A.L. "Red" Erwin.

"This horse has got some speed, and this horse can come from out of it," said Joseph Boxie, who trains Costa Rising for Charles A. Castille Jr.

Costa Rising looked the part of a winner in the paddock for the Erwin, having held his flesh well during a win streak that has come during the hot summer months in Louisiana.

"He's a nice big horse, about 16 hands, 1,200 pounds," Boxie said. "He's a pleasant horse to train. He's a good-minded horse. He works like an old horse, but close those gates and he's a different horse."

Costa Rising has made 10 starts. He won his debut in a 4 1/2-furlong maiden race at Evangeline Downs. After that he picked up checks in several starts before storming to a seven-length win April 14 in an allowance for Louisiana-breds in his first two-turn start.

All of the wins in his streak have come against Louisiana-breds. Costa Rising is a son of Royal Strand, a four-time stakes winner and turf specialist. Costa Rising has won six races and $182,748.

Starry Pie to Gardenia?

Starry Pie rallied from well back to win the $50,000 Dixie Miss over six furlongs at Louisiana Downs on July 15 and could get more ground for her next start. C.R. Trout, who owns Starry Pie, said he is considering running her in the Grade 3, $150,000 Gardenia Handicap for fillies and mares at one mile at Ellis Park in Kentucky on Aug. 5.

Starry Pie should be effective around two turns, said Trout.

"She gives every indication that she will," he said. "She's about 16 hands, 1,100 pounds. She's a big enough [filly], she strides out good, and finishes strong."

If she does not go to Ellis, Trout said, another option is the $50,000 Ponca City for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs at Remington Park Aug. 7.

Starry Pie earned a career-best Beyer Figure of 86 in the Dixie Miss. The race was for 3-year-old fillies and it was Starry Pie's first stakes win. She is a daughter of Pioneering.

New barns moving in

With the close of the Lone Star Park meet last Sunday, some new stables are shipping into Louisiana Downs. Trainers Jim Hudson, Dallas Keen, and Michael Stidham are among those bringing 20-horse stables, said Tony Patterson, racing secretary at Louisiana Downs.

Also moving in from Lone Star is jockey Jamie Theriot, who finished third in the Lone Star rider standings. He is named to ride in the first race Thursday for leading trainer Cole Norman.

Norman also moved some horses from Lone Star to Louisiana Downs.

* Mountain Jett seeks his third straight win on Thursday in the seventh race, a first-level allowance at about a mile on turf. He owns the field's highest last-race Beyer, an 88, which came in a win over $20,000 conditioned claimers on the turf here.