05/16/2007 11:00PM

Renewal of a rivalry

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BOSSIER CITY, La. - Saturday's $45,000 Big Earl Handicap will bring together the best of the Louisiana-bred sprint corps. The

5 1/2-furlong race drew a field of six and will go as the second half of the early daily double.

Cort's P. B., whose winter and spring campaign included bookend stakes wins at Fair Grounds as well as a head score in the Cypress Stakes at Delta Downs, will be the starting highweight at 124 pounds.

Claimed by Pat Mouton for nationally prominent owner Maggi Moss out of a statebred $45,000 optional claiming race here last September, Cort's P. B. paid immediate dividends for his new connections by winning the Thanksgiving Handicap on opening day at Fair Grounds. The

7-year-old son of Huff shipped over to Vinton, La., and won the Cypress in January before returning to New Orleans and winning the $100,000 Lagniappe Sprint Stakes on the closing weekend of the Fair Grounds stand.

No stranger to Louisiana Downs, Cort's P. B. has won 5 of his 13 local starts and finished second four times. E.J. Perrodin will once again ride.

Rated just behind Cort's P. B. at 123 pounds is Brother Bean. The

4-year-old son of My Friend Max holds a 2-1 advantage over Cort's

P. B. in their last three meetings. He won the Louisiana Champions Day Sprint at Fair Grounds while Cort's P. B. finished third, and was second when Cort's P. B. reported home third in the $100,000 Louisiana Premier Sprint at Delta in early February.

But handicaps are a lot about what have you done lately, and Cort's P. B. turned the tables on Brother Bean when they met in the Lagniappe in late March, defeating him by 5 1/2 lengths. Brother Bean did bounce back in fine fashion afterward, winning an allowance sprint at Evangeline by an impressive nine-plus lengths in mid-April in a time of 1:09.60 for six furlongs. Curt Bourque will journey up from Evangeline to ride Saturday.

Not to be lost in the heated rivalry between the two highweights is the return of Zarb's Dahar. The owner of a truly remarkably local record of 12 wins from 14 starts, including numerous stakes, the

7-year-old will be making his first start for trainer James Hodges since a third-place finish to Cort's P. B. in the Cypress at Delta in early January. He has been training well for his return, including a bullet five furlongs in 59.60 seconds here last Sunday.