01/30/2008 12:00AM

Turf specialists switch to Delta dirt


Desert Wheat, Willist, Smitty's Sunshine, and Tensas Yucatan, all multiple stakes winners on turf, will test their skills on dirt Saturday night in the $1 million Louisiana Premier Night program at Delta Downs.

Delta, which does not have a turf course, is running six six-figure stakes for Louisiana-breds on Premier Night. There are also four statebred starter races on the card for total purses of $1 million. The rich night has lured Desert Wheat, Willist, Smitty's Sunshine, and Tensas Yucatan in from Fair Grounds.

Desert Wheat and Willist were among the 10 older horses entered Wednesday morning in the $200,000 Championship, a 1 1/16-mile race that serves as Saturday night's main event. Willist won the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf in December, and the $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace in January, both on turf at Fair Grounds. Miguel Mena has the mount on Willist, a two-time winner on dirt, for trainer Kelly Broussard.

Desert Wheat, whose seven career starts have all come on turf, closed from well back to finish a close fourth last out in the Dixie Poker Ace. Bill Mott, the trainer of Desert Wheat, will be making his second Delta appearance of the meet. In December, Mott sent out Z Humor to a dead-heat win in the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Jackpot. Corey Lanerie will ride Desert Wheat.

Smitty's Sunshine, who won an off-the-turf stakes at Calder in July, goes in the $100,000 Matron for fillies and mares at five furlongs. Her stablemate, Tensas Yucatan, a two-time winner on dirt, will run in the $150,000 Distaff for fillies and mares at a mile. Morris Nicks trains both horses.