03/20/2008 11:00PM

Mean Butterbean finally has spot to run

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NEW ORLEANS - Mean Butterbean lost badly in the opening-day stakes at Fair Grounds and has been looking for a chance to redeem himself all meet.

He gets his chance in the last stakes race of the season on the final day of the meet, Sunday's $60,000 Lagniappe Classic, a 1 1/16-mile dirt race for Louisiana-bred 4-year-olds and up.

Mean Butterbean tried open company in the opening-day stakes, the Thanksgiving Day Handicap, and finished seventh, 8 1/2 lengths from the winner. He has not raced since. It's not that he was on the shelf injured, or taking a breather. His trainer, Victor Arceneaux, was actively looking for the right spot.

We just didn't want to run him in open company again," said Arceneaux, "and we couldn't get the right statebred race to go."

In the interim, Mean Butterbean has been biding his time, working out at Evangeline Downs and waiting for his connections to find the right race for him.

Arceneaux believes the Lagniappe Classic to be the right spot and is looking for Mean Butterbean to come from farther back than usual and make one run.

"He hasn't raced in so long that we are going to come from off the pace," said Arceneaux. "He's very fresh right now, and I think that he'll do better with making one run."

His main competition is likely to come from Magic Sunset, who enters off a victory in the Premier Night Championship at Delta Downs on Feb. 2. In that race he stalked the pacesetters before taking over in the turn and coming home 1 3/4 lengths in front of Z Storm, whom he will face again in the Lagniappe Classic.

Magic Sunset, a 5-year-old gelding, has finished in the money in his last five starts, and his trainer, Jim Hudson, believes he is improving with time.

"The old horse is doing as good as he has ever done," said Hudson. "The older he gets, the better he gets."

Magic Sunset hasn't done well in his races at the Fair Grounds, but Hudson believes he will like the distance of the Lagniappe.

"Last time at the Fair Grounds we sprinted him," said Hudson. "A mile a sixteenth fits his running style."

Z Storm, second to Magic Sunset the last time the two met, has finished in the money in 8 of 10 races here.