03/02/2005 12:00AM

Mauk Four tough on cutback

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Mauk Four, who ran a courageous second to the Cole Norman-trained Absent Friend last month in the Grade 3 Essex at Oaklawn, will take on two different Norman runners, Snorter and Shaky Town, in Friday night's $50,000 Delta Mile at Delta Downs.

The one-mile race for older horses is a prep for the $125,000 Gulf Coast Breeders' Cup Classic at 1 1/16 miles on April 2.

will likely be favored over eight others on the heels of his front-running effort in the Essex. He made the early pace in the 1 1/16-mile race, leading the field through six furlongs in 1:11.40 and finishing second, beaten a half-length in 1:43.60.

Mauk Four will run a shorter distance Friday, and the move would seem to suit him because his last two wins have come at one mile, both at Delta. Brian Hernandez has the mount for trainer Jerry Cart.

will be making his first start since October in the Delta Mile, and the race will be his first for Norman after being based in California with trainer Bobby Frankel. Snorter's best race came in the Grade 3 Berkeley Breeders' Cup Handicap at one mile at Golden Gate Fields last March.

Snorter worked five furlongs in a bullet 59.20 seconds at Oaklawn on Feb. 27 in his final prep for the Delta Mile.

"I'm glad to have him," said Norman, who trains Snorter for Gary and Mary West Stables. "He's doing good, training well, and had a good work here the other morning. Everything's on go."

Snorter will break from post 7, and figures to be tracking Mauk Four, who will break from post 3.

"He's kind of a stalker," Norman said of Snorter.

Guy Smith, the leading rider at Delta, has the mount on Snorter. The horse will be coupled with Shaky Town, who will be ridden by Kirk LeBlanc.

Others in the deep Delta Mile field include Golden Glen for trainer Bobby Barnett, Rogue Scholar for trainer Lori Hendrickson, and High Strike Zone.

Trained by Amos Laborde, High Strike Zone will be sharp for the move to two turns after finishing second by a head to Two Down Automatic in the $50,000 Sam Houston Sprint Handicap on Jan. 22.

High Strike Zone earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 102. Laborde has given the mount to Ricky Faul.