The top four finishers in the Delta Downs Jackpot will earn points towards the Kentucky Derby. But so far, the race is just a blip on the Derby trail. Only one horse that has finished in the top three in the Jackpot has made an impact on the Triple Crown races, 2005 Kentucky Derby runner-up Closing Argument.
In the eleven years that the Delta Downs Jackpot (G-3) has been contested, only two winners, Big Drama and Goldencents, have continued on to win Grade 1 stakes. It seems the only thing going for the race is the million dollar purse and a chance for the horses’ connections to indulge in some Cajun cuisine.
This year, a full field of ten, with two also-eligibles are scheduled to run 1 1/6 miles. There’s a 90% chance of a wet track, so let’s scout for the mud pedigrees.
Colts exiting the Breeders' Cup haven't fared well in the Delta Jackpot. Only Z Humor, fifth in the BC Juvenile, has won the Jackpot. This year, MR. Z enters the Jackpot after a fifth place finish in the Juvenile. The well-traveled colt has started at five different tracks in six races since June and has finished worse than second only twice. An exhausting schedule that many horses couldn’t handle, but Mr. Z seems to thrive on it. Have to consider him as a contender as he’s facing a much softer field here, plus, he has one of the best mud pedigrees in the field.
Another colt that figures to see a lot of action on the tote is GOLDEN ACTOR. The son of Curlin made an eye-catching move in his debut in a Gulfstream maiden race, breaking from the far outside and circling the field only to miss by ¾ length over the speed favoring track going seven furlongs. Golden Actor captured the Jean Lafitte Stakes, the Jackpot prep by over 4 lengths. Golden Actor is a half brother to multiple stakes winner BIG APPLE DADDY and stakes placed River Dancer, so there’s some quality here. Golden Actor’s speed figures have improved in every start and he’s firing off bullet works at Delta Downs. On the downside, his resume is light, he’s taking a major step up in class and his mud pedigree is average.
CONQUEST TSUNAMI has been defeated only once in his six race career. After going virtually unchallenged over the Woodbine Poly and turf, the son of Stormy Atlantic faded to sixth after pressing the pace in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. It was the colt’s first race over dirt and around two turns. The Mark Casse trainee won the Street Sense Stakes at a mile over the Churchill dirt in his last start and could be one of the colts vying for the lead in this year’s Jackpot. He has an above average mud pedigree.
The word must’ve gone out that Delta Downs favors speed. A contingent of California shippers will bring their brand of crazy to bear in the Jackpot. Leading the herd is WAKE UP NICK. Undefeated in his first five starts, which include a slew of state-bred stakes, the son of Cindigo suffered his first defeat in the Golden State Juvenile in his last start, finishing second by 1 ¼ lengths after a wide trip chasing blistering fractions. His sire Cindago gets a superior 26% winners over off tracks.
Speaking of speed, OCHO OCHO OCHO couldn’t have been more impressive running away in the rained off Juvenile Turf Sprint. The son of Street Sense dueled through insane fractions of :21.46, and :43.96 before widening to a 5 ¾ length lead, flashing under the wire in 1:14.57 for 6 ½ furlongs. On paper, he’s easily the fastest one in the field, but will have to stretch that speed an extra two furlongs. He does have an above average mud pedigree.
PRIME ENGINE breaks from the #1 position, and he will likely be right up on the lead with Ocho Ocho Ocho. The son of Northern Afleet has won both stars by a combined 15 ½ lengths at Emerald Downs. After those huge victories, Prime Engine switched to the barn of Jerry Hollendorfer and has been flashing sensational works. Prime Engine has to prove himself against tougher, more experienced horses and his pedigree is average for mud, but Hollendorfer doesn’t ship for the fun of it.
Looking for a live longshot? How about SARATOGA HEATER? Conditioned by Al Stall Jr., the son of Temple City has improved his speed figures in every start, including a 4 length victory against NY state-breds in the Bertram F. Bongard. The colt has made all three starts over a sloppy track and there’s 90% rain/snow in the forecast for Saturday. Plus, this colt has shown the ability to race on or off of the lead. At morning line odds of 15-1, he’s a tempting play.
Far Right has been wide in his last two starts and will be in the same position in the Jackpot. He was gaining ground in the Street Sense after going wide, but I expect much of the same here. Perhaps he can round out a Super.
Red Button has raced over dirt, poly and turf. His speed figures have improved in each start and he likes to run from off of the pace. The drawback is his trainer’s 0-24 record in stakes and this colt has been beaten by weaker opponents. If the Jackpot pace is strong, perhaps Red Button can hit the board, but I don’t see him winning here.
Dekabrist gets his fourth jockey in six starts. That’s not going to help. Take this guy back to Calder…uh, Gulfstream West, and let him play with the allowance types.
TRACK BIAS: 33% of winners go wire-to-wire on the rail. In the last five editions of the Jackpot, three colts won on the lead, one each won from mid-pack and from the back of the pack.
PRIME ENGINE has speed on the rail, but he may not be as fast as OCHO OCHO OCHO. If Ocho gets an uncontested lead, it could be game over, but I’ll bet that he’ll be pushed along by the other speed.
#5 SARATOGA HEATER
#4 CONQUEST TSUNAMI
#8 WAKE UP NICK
#3 MR. Z