Friday, November 18, 2011
In just less than six months, entries will be taken for the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands and the 20 horses with the most earnings in graded races will qualify. That makes the grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot significant in that the $600,000 winner’s check will viturally qualify them for the Derby. Of course there is still the challenge of keeping a horse injury-free and train into top form for the May 5 Derby, but Saturday’s Delta Downs Jackpot winner will not have to worry about acquiring more graded earnings to have the opportunity to run in Kentucky.
In fact, Since the Jackpot was first graded in 2006, Z Humor has been the only Jackpot winner to make it to the Derby, finishing 14th in 2008. Other Jackpot winners such as Big Drama and Rule, have gone on to successful racing careers after winning the Jackpot, but only one has made it to the Derby.
That may change in 2012, however, as the Delta Downs racing department has this year put together the most accomplished field in the short ten-year history of the race.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has entered Drill, giving the Jackpot its first grade 1 winner. Drill, a son of first crop sire Lawyer Ron, picked up his grade 1 victory in the Del Mar Futurity in September. Racing in the famous gold and red silks of Mike Peagram, Drill has since finished second to Creative Cause in the grade 1 Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita before finishing a disappointing 10th in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. 1) Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs. Pegram owns Drill with partners Karl Watson and Paul Weitman.
Trainer Kelly Breen has been working on home field advantage in the Jackpot since he shipped My Adonis to Delta Downs in late October to win the Jean Lafitte Futurity, the local prep race for the Jackpot. My Adonis moved to the Vinton, Louisiana track from Monmouth Park in New Jersey where he where broke his maiden in his fourth attempt. Jockey Eddie Trijuillo also returns to Delta Downs to again ride My Adonis, the 4-to-1 second choice in the Jackpot morning line.
Morning line third choice Seven Lively Sins comes from Churchill Downs where he finished second by just three-quarters of a length behind Motor City in the grade 3 Iroquios in his last out. Trained by Louisiana-native Al Stall, Jr. Seven Lively Sins broke his maiden over Keeneland’s Polytrack main track in his second start. Assigned 9-to-2 odds by the line maker, Seven Lively Sins will again be ridden by Julien Leparoux, currently the leading rider at Churchill Downs.
Also flying from California for the Jackpot are Basmati and Longview Drive. Basmati was fifth and fourth as a maiden in the Del Mar Futurity and Norfolk Stakes respectively and has since won a maiden race at Santa Anita. Corey Nakatani will ride Basmati for trainer Doug O’Neil.
The mysterious horse is Canadian invader Dougs Buddy. Trained by Joan Petrowski, Doug’s Buddy is not coming from prominent racing circles around Woodbine Race Course in Toronto, but from the much lesser known Northlands Park in Edmonton, Alberta. The Kentucky-bred son of Badge of Silver is undefeated in four starts at Northlands, including winning three ungraded stakes. Dougs Buddy is taking a step up in class and has traveled the furthest distance, but offers a good return at 20-to-1 odds in the morning line.
Deciphering the Delta Downs Jackpot
Delta Downs features a six furlong track, but because the Jackpot starts out of the 550-yard Quarter Horse chute, the field makes only two turns in a 1-1/16 race. That leaves a long straight run to the first turn and plenty of time and track for the 10-horse field to sort itself out. Therefore, post position should be of no concern.
My Adonis has the only experience racing at Delta Downs as he won the Jean Lafitte Futurity after closely stalking early leader Top Cat Boogie. Looking through the charts of races this week, it appears horses must follow that pattern and be on or very near the lead going into the far turn. The track configuration may have something to do with that as the tighter far turn and short stretch make it more difficult for closers to make their move.
All of the speed in the Jackpot should come from the inside as the Jerry Hollendorfer trained Longview Drive, Seven Lively Sins and Basmati break from the one, two and four posts respectively. Tiz Moe, My Adonis and Drill should fall into the second flight with Laurie’s Rocket, Sabercat, Doug’s Buddy and Jake Mo also trying to stay with striking distance.
Running out of the long chute to start the race and the abundance of speed in the race is a formula for a fast first quarter of a mile, but again the sharper turns should come into play. Should a jockey hit the first turn at Delta Downs too fast, they can find themselves on the way to Houston by way of the outside rail.
Seven Lively Sins are the most likely to survive among the speedsters and My Adonis and Drill should be plenty close enough to strike with Doug’s Buddy just off them.
In the Del Mar Futurity, Drill showed he had the type of acceleration needed to be effective at Delta Downs moving from fifth to first down the stretch. However, Drill has been unable to repeat that since.
On the other end of the spectrum, Basmati looks as if he is getting better and might turn the tables after losing to Drill both at Del Mar and Santa Anita. My Adonis should benefit from the home field advantage and with any improvement off of his last race there, should also be among those fighting for the win.
For the price, Doug’s Buddy get’s my interest as well. Although the competition at Northlands Park isn’t what he will be facing at Delta Downs, it is a five furlong oval at Northlands Park so the tight turns should be of little concern. As a grade 3, the Jackpot is a logical next step in trying to further define the talent of Doug's Buddy and it never seems a great idea to eliminate and undefeated race horse – even one from Canada.
#4 – Basmati
#5 – My Adonis
#9 – Doug’s Buddy