11/29/2006 12:00AM

Jackpot draws from all corners

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Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Birdbirdistheword, who last ran in Kentucky, trains at Delta Wednesday under Pedro Leleze.

This year's Delta Jackpot has turned into a melting pot of sorts. The Grade 3, $1 million race, which has been won by California-based horses in two of its three runnings, has drawn its largest cross-section of starters ever for Friday night's renewal at Delta Downs. The members of the full 10-horse field last raced in either New York, California, Kentucky, Maryland, Louisiana, or Canada.

And with 2-year-olds coming in from so many regions, this year's Jackpot is the deepest in the race's history. There are two horses exiting Grade 1 company, Birdbirdistheword and Malt Magic. There are a pair of Grade 3 winners, Officer Rocket and Xchanger.

Adding further depth is Go Poppa Fooze, who owns one of the year's top Beyer Figures for a 2-year-old, and Freesgood and Pirates Deputy, the one-two finishers in the California Cup Juvenile. There is also the promising Ice Man Cometh, and stakes-experienced colts Scatter the Tak and Mistycal Light.

The Jackpot is the richest race in Louisiana. It was scheduled to be run as a Grade 3 for the first time last year but had to be canceled following Hurricane Rita. The 1 1/16-mile race is one of five stakes on Friday's card, and with purses exceeding $1.5 million, the program is the richest ever run at Delta. The Jackpot is the final leg of a $50,000-guaranteed pick four that starts in the fifth race and includes the matchup of Grade 1 winners Appealing Zophie and Meadow Breeze in the sixth, the $300,000 Delta Princess.

Birdbirdistheword last raced on Oct. 7, finishing fourth in the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. The third-place finisher from that race, Street Sense, went on to win the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Birdbirdistheword came into the Breeders' Futurity off a win in the $100,000 Juvenile at Louisiana Downs, a 1 1/16-mile turf race run Sept. 23.

"I ran him back quick off the race that he won in Louisiana," said Ken McPeek, who trains Birdbirdistheword. "I was concerned about the quick turnaround, and he ended up scoping with a small lung infection. I think he was running at about 80 percent."

McPeek gave Birdbirdistheword time to regroup, and he has worked sharply. And while the colt's two wins have come on turf, McPeek does not think he's strictly a grass horse.

"His pedigree really says dirt," said McPeek of Birdbirdistheword, who is by Pure Prize. "I like running young horses long, and there really weren't that many choices going long in August, when he broke his maiden, and so the distance was more important to me than the ground. And then the timing of the race at Louisiana Downs was excellent, too."

Birdbirdistheword's experience over the seven-furlong Louisiana Downs turf course should help him handle Delta Downs's six-furlong oval. The horses in the field will have a three-furlong run to the first turn of the two-turn race after starting in a chute at the top of the stretch. Birdbirdistheword should secure a nice stalking trip with the speed to his inside. He will be ridden by Robby Albarado, one of several top-class riders with mounts in the Jackpot.

Officer Rocket, the dead-heat winner of the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity, last raced on Oct. 29, finishing fifth as one of the top choices in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill. He flipped his soft palate in the race and has since had a myectomy, said his trainer, Bob Holthus.

"He's since worked three-quarters in 1:11 and change," Holthus said of a sharp drill Nov. 22. "He's a very nice-going horse. He just skips over the ground."

Tracy Hebert has the mount, while Jamie Theriot will ride Go Poppa Fooze, who earned a 98 Beyer for his nine-length win in the $150,000 Jean Lafitte at Delta. He wired the field in what was his two-turn debut.

"He won on the front, but he is rateable," said Cole Norman, who trains Go Poppa Fooze. "If somebody goes ahead, so be it. He can sit off the pace."

Malt Magic, who was 12th in the BC Juvenile, will be ridden by Victor Espinoza. Garrett Gomez has the mount on Pirates Deputy. Both horses are trained by Bob Baffert.