12/13/2005 1:00AM

Mr. Jester retired at 4

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BOSSIER CITY, La. - Mr. Jester, who won the first $1 million running of the Delta Jackpot in 2003, has been retired and sold for an undisclosed sum, his trainer, Steve Wren, said Tuesday.

Mr. Jester left his Louisiana Downs base for Wren's farm in Arkansas on Sunday, and is scheduled to head to Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, Ky., on Thursday.

His ultimate destination is Canada, said Wren, where he is expected to stand at stud in a deal orchestrated largely by Bruce Kline, president of Spendthrift. Mr. Jester is a son of Silver Deputy, who also stood in Canada.

"I think [Mr. Jester] has a lot to offer from the standpoint that he had heart, he had soundness, he had speed, and he could go a route of ground," said Wren. "With the Silver Deputy line, along with the mare line, which is Fappiano,

I think he's got the license to be a nice stallion."

Mr. Jester, 4, won 5 of 15 starts and $785,400. His biggest win came in the Jackpot, at Delta Downs, which he won over Fire Slam and Perfect Moon. Mr. Jester raced for Kaaren Biggs.

Options for The Beter Man Can

The Beter Man Can was an explosive 5 3/4-length winner of the $100,000 Ladies on Louisiana Champions Day last Saturday and earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 102. Now, she has two options for her next start, and both races come on closing weekend of the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs.

She could remain racing at 1 1/16 miles in the $75,000 Louisiana Lagniappe Ladies on Jan. 21, or she could cut back to 5 1/2 furlongs for the $75,000 Louisiana Lagniappe Ladies Sprint on Jan. 22. Both races are for Louisiana-bred fillies and mares and were added to the stakes schedule last Friday.

"We will play it by ear," said Patrick Mouton, who trains The Beter Man Can for Stan Seelig. "We have a long time to decide. We will look at both of them and be ready to go, whichever one we decide on."

The Beter Man Can, 3, is a five-time stakes winner, and if she goes in the route stakes she could meet Happy Ticket. The Lagniappe Ladies is an option for multiple stakes winner Happy Ticket, said her trainer, Andrew Leggio Jr. Earlier this year, Happy Ticket won the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga.

Big purse hike for Fair Grounds

The move to increase overnight purses $4,000 a race starting Thursday and the addition of five stakes for Louisiana-breds pushes average daily purses this meet from $315,000 to about $370,000, which is a record for a Louisiana track.

The purse increase is due to strong handle and video poker play at the Fair Grounds's five offtrack betting parlors that are operating. There is little gaming competition in the New Orleans market, which was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina.

Purses were kicked up 18 percent in an announcement made Friday. The stakes include five new $75,000 divisional stakes for statebreds to be run over the new "Louisiana Lagniappe Weekend" on Jan. 21-22.

Lagniappe is a Cajun saying, said Leggio.

"When you go to the grocery store, and say you buy a pound of ham, they throw in a little extra. That's lagniappe," he said. "Whatever you bought, they say 'Here's a little lagniappe for you.' A little extra stuff."

In addition to the new stakes, Fair Grounds has added $25,000 to the purse of both the Red Camelia on Jan. 7 and the Dixie Poker Ace on Jan. 8, making each race worth $75,000.

Albarado heading to Oaklawn

Jockey Robby Albarado will ride at Oaklawn Park later this winter, confirmed his agent, Lenny Pike.

Albarado, who won riding titles at Oaklawn in 1996 and 1997, normally spends his entire winter in New Orleans, but the Fair Grounds meet was shortened from more than four months to two this season in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. So for the first time, the Fair Grounds meet will close just as the Arkansas season gets underway on Jan. 20.

Albarado will bring a lot of clout with him when he heads to Oaklawn. He rides for a host of Midwest stables, and one of his chief backers, trainer Neil Howard, will be among the prominent new faces wintering in Hot Springs.

Chapa mending quickly

Leading rider Roman Chapa could be back in the saddle as early as Thursday. He was off his mounts on Sunday after being kicked by a horse during morning training hours, an incident that resulted in a bruised left kidney.

"I talked to him last night and he said he felt pretty good," Bobby Kelly, who represents Chapa, said Tuesday. "He's in good shape. There's no broken [bones], no internal injuries, so he should be back up Thursday or Friday."

Chapa has a commanding lead in the standings, with 21 wins through Sunday. Carlos Gonzalez and Gerard Melancon are tied for second in the standings with 15 wins each.