11/11/2004 1:00AM

Zarb's Luck proven at Gold Cup's two turns

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Zarb's Luck is a fast horse who has registered the majority of his wins around one turn. He did, however, score one of his biggest victories around two turns, and on Saturday night he will defend his title in that race, the $100,000 Gold Cup, at Delta Downs in Vinton, La.

The one-mile race for 3-year-olds and up is restricted to horses bred in Louisiana, and it drew a familiar cast of eight, including Witt Ante, Nitro Chip, Prince Slew, and Walk in the Snow.

Edward Johnston, who trains Zarb's Luck and owns him with Scott Boudreaux, says Zarb's Luck may be more effective around two turns than one.

"It just slows the speed down," Johnston said. "It's better than a one-turn mile for him because he doesn't have to use as much speed. He's already done it and it doesn't bother him."

has followed the same path into this year's Gold Cup as he did last year, when he won the race by a neck. One start prior to the 2003 Gold Cup, he returned from a more than five-month layoff to finish second in the $50,000 Cajun at Louisiana Downs.

This year, Zarb's Luck was fourth in the Oct. 23 Cajun while making his first start since March.

"He was off a long time and I think he needed the race," said Johnston. "I gave him a little bit more time off this year. He's a year older."

Zarb's Luck, who is 7, worked five furlongs in 59.60 seconds Nov. 6 in preparation for the Gold Cup. He brings a strong Delta record into the race, having finished third or better in all nine of his starts over the track. He won four of those starts, including the $100,000 Premiere Night Sprint, for which he earned a career-best Beyer Figure of 107.

Corey Lanerie has the mount on Zarb's Luck.

Witt Ante moves back to dirt following a second-place finish on turf last out in the $80,000 Shiskabob at Louisiana Downs. Prior to that race, Witt Ante was third to Mr. Jester in an open-company optional claimer on Oct. 8. Witt Ante will be making his third start back from a layoff for David Beard and trainer Larry Robideaux Jr.

* Mr. Excellent can win his third race in four starts in the $50,000 Calcasieu for 2-year-olds bred in Louisiana. The colt won his maiden and an allowance by a combined 13 lengths, and in his stakes debut last out was second by a head in the $100,000 D.S. "Shine" Young Memorial Futurity. Steve Bourque rides for trainer Doris Hebert.