12/13/2003 12:00AM

Spritely Walker gets there in a foggy Classic


NEW ORLEANS - Steve Asmussen got lost in the fog, but his horse, Spritely Walker, found his way home in the $150,000 . The Classic was the feature on a card that comprised 10 stakes for statebreds.

Heavy rain fell here Saturday morning, and then the fog rolled in. Several races were run through an impenetrable bank, and Asmussen, on his way from Houston, had his plane diverted to Mississippi. He was driving toward the city when Spritely Walker charged into view and up the rail for a narrow victory over Prince Slew, who fought bravely in the center of the track.

Mr. Archibald, who had seized the lead at the half-mile pole, was third. Spritely Walker ran nine furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:53.37 and paid $4 to win.

William Heiligbrodt bought Spritely Walker a year ago to win races like this, and after struggling last summer, the colt has come on strong.

"He was supposed to win today the way he's been doing," assistant trainer Scott Blasi said.

Samlot was sent to the early lead, but Mr. Archibald caught him before the far turn as Spritely Walker and jockey Corey Lanerie waited on the rail. Mr. Archibald was struggling with the wet track, and at the top of the stretch Prince Slew and Spritely Walker closed in. Lanerie was forced to duck to the inside, and Spritely Walker had to work, but he dug in and won by three-quarters of a length.

Sprint: Zarb's Luck repeats

Neither fog, nor mud, nor a tough inside draw could stop Zarb's Luck from winning his second straight $100,000 Champions Day Sprint. Breaking from the rail under Robby Albarado, Zarb's Luck outran his pace rivals for the early lead and had plenty left to turn back Go Rail Go the last 100 yards.

Zarb's Luck had never won on an off track, but his trainer, Eddie Johnston, didn't fear the surface. "I think he'd run over glass at the Fair Grounds," he said. "He loves it here."

On a track playing slowly, Zarb's Luck flew through the first quarter-mile in 22 seconds and got a half in 45.47. He was dogged on the lead by Lac Lorange, but still finished strongly, completing the six furlongs in 1:10.98

Zarb's Magic, the favorite, paid $7.60 to win. The longshot Patrick's Talent rallied for third.

Turf: Silky Zarb notches second Champions win

The trainer Andrew Ney has a knack for winning on Champions Day. Last season he won the Starter with Silky Zarb, and this year, 90 minutes after Ney won the starter again, Silky Zarb took advantage of the wet conditions to win the $100,000 Turf.

Silky Zarb had an outside shot had the Turf remained on grass, but a switch to the main track made him a standout. Bet down to 3-5, Silky Zarb stalked the pace of Spend a Web, took control turning for home and easily held clear Mr. Sulu for the win. He paid just $3.60, running 1 1/16 miles in 1:47.38.

Ladies: Cute N Noble by four

Cute N Noble shocked the heavily favored Prized Amberpro, winning the $100,000 Ladies by four lengths under Guy Smith.

Smith kept Cute N Noble on the inside as Mrs. Mac set fractions of 23.67 for a quarter-mile and 48.30 for a half, and Cute N Noble still was sixth at the quarter pole. But Smith found a crease and Cute N Noble zipped through for an easy win over Autobesarah, who nipped Prized Amberpro for second.

Cute N Noble ($38.80), trained by Maxful Landry, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:48.06.

Juvenile: Walk this Way gets stakes win

It may have taken Walk This Way five starts to win his maiden, but he was ready for his stakes debut, rallying from mid-pack under Shane Sellers to win a wide-open edition of the $100,000 Juvenile.

Owned by Stanley Seelig and trained by Pat Mouton, Walk This Way won a maiden race by a half-length two weeks ago, but handled 11 opponents in the Juvenile with little trouble, moving to the lead inside the sixteenth pole before pulling away for a 1 1/4-length score over Nitro Chip. Ten Times Better, the 7-2 favorite, finished third. Walk This Way ran six furlongs in 1:12.45 and paid $28.80 to win.

Lassie: Rose of Sophia makes big jump

Rose of Sophia had never run in an allowance race, much less a stakes, but she rallied from last and won the $100,000 Lassie going away for owner Kara Baggett. Just Plain Vanilla, who took the lead at the sixteenth pole, was second, a neck ahead of Merry Mary.

In from Louisiana Downs by trainer Cole Norman, Rose of Sophia won her maiden in a $30,000 statebred maiden claimer. On Saturday, under jockey Carlos Gonzalez, she started rolling in the long Fair Grounds stretch and cruised past the leaders on the far outside.

Rose of Sophia, who was timed in 1:13.86, paid $32.20 to win.

* For the second straight year, Andrew Ney saddled the winner of the $50,000 Starter, this time with Jacob's Prospect ($17), who beat Sunup Sundown by two lengths.

* Val's Fortune ran his record to 10 wins from 11 starts with a powerful win in the $100,000 Quarter Horse Juvenile.