01/31/2007 12:00AM

Shippers strong on rich card


Tiny slots-fueled Delta Downs annually hosts one race worth

$1 million, the Delta Jackpot, but on Saturday night the track spreads a million bucks out over 10 races, all of them for horses bred in the state of Louisiana.

On tap for Louisiana Premier Night are six stakes races, worth between $100,000 and $200,000, and four starter-allowance races with purses between $45,000 and $55,000. For one day at least, it is Delta, not Fair Grounds, offering the best winter racing in Louisiana.

Still, the principal combatants will come from elsewhere in the state, traveling west to Vinton, La., which sits not far from Texas's eastern border. There is Fair Grounds-based trainer Pat Mouton, who with horses in half the night's races stands to carry away a large slice of the Delta pie. The trainer Victor Arceneaux, based at his own training center and the old Evangeline Downs in central Louisiana, brings the three-horse contingent of Mean Butterbean, Brother Bean, and Anything But Quiet to Delta, all with good shots to win their respective stakes. And also from the Evangeline training center comes the current leader of the Louisiana-bred older-horse division, Costa Rising, who will try to beat seven rivals - Mean Butterbean among them - in the $200,000 Premier Night Championship.

Costa Rising, trained by Joseph Stanley Boxie for owner Charles Castille, has won 9 of his 15 starts, and enters the 1 1/16-mile Championship riding an eight-race winning streak in starts against Louisiana-bred competition. He most recently raced

Dec. 9 at Fair Grounds, overcoming a wide draw, a fast pace, and a game effort from Mean Butterbean to win the $150,000 Champions Day Classic by a head.

Boxie and Castille gave Costa Rising a break between starts by design, and he enters Saturday night's race a relatively fresh horse, and with a win in his only prior start at Delta.

Proven Delta form is something to consider. Count in this group Tensas Yucatan, an intriguing 3-year-old filly prospect who cost $270,000 at auction last year and won her career debut Jan. 15 at Fair Grounds like a good thing. Robby Albarado, who rides Mean Butterbean in the Championship, jumps off Anything But Quiet to keep the mount on Tensas Yucatan.