The top four finishers in the 2016 Delta Downs Jackpot (G-3) will earn points towards the Kentucky Derby. But so far, the race is just a blip on the Derby trail. Only two colts have finished in the top three in the Jackpot and in the Triple Crown races. Closing Argument was the 2005 Kentucky Derby runner-up, and who could forget this year’s Preakness champ Exaggerator, who finally got revenge on his nemesis Nyquist in the classic event?
The million dollar purse and a chance for the horses’ connections to indulge in some Cajun cuisine aren’t the only attractions to the Delta Jackpot. The 1 1/16 mile race is an official Kentucky Derby Prep race, a chance to earn precious points towards a start in the 2017 Kentucky Derby. The Delta Jackpot hero will earn ten points, with a 4-2-1 point system for second through fourth place.
This year, a full field of ten two-year-old colts are scheduled to run 1 1/16 miles over the Delta Downs oval. The weather should be clear and sunny with a fast track. Six of the contestants won their last race on the lead or pressing the pace. Four colts have traveled 1 1/6 miles, but only two have been successful at the distance. Three are stakes winners.
#6 GUNNEVERA (Dialed In – Unbridled Rage, by Unbridled) is the only confirmed stalker in the field. He used this running style to chase down the speed in the Saratoga Special to win by a length. However, next start out, his regular jock Florida-based Jesus Rios, moved too soon in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, taking the colt off of the rail to go very wide around the turn. Gunnevera had a good turn of foot, but and flattened out a little in his two-turn debut. Still, he recorded the final 1/16 in 6.84, the third-fastest time in the race. Javier Castellano was on the Chestnut colt in the Saratoga Special and jumps back on for the Jackpot. Trainer Antonio Sano has been putting Gunnevera through his paces in morning works at Gulfstream Park, recording two pre-race five-furlong bullet moves.
Pedigree: Gunnevera has the pedigree to handle longer distances. Read the full analysis.
#1 PAT ON THE BACK (Congrats – Accomplished, by Awesome Again) is a steady win machine on the New York state-bred circuit. The Chestnut colt can win from on or off the pace, and the Jackpot will be his two-turn debut. The Ken McPeek trainee was last seen capturing the Sleepy Hollow Stakes over a muddy Belmont surface. He’ll be ridden for the first time by Robby Albarado, who gives up the mount on J Boys Echo. Last year, Sunny Ridge invaded from New York to finish a desperate neck behind Exaggerator in the Jackpot.
Pedigree: Pat on the Back has miler speed over stamina pedigree. He is a half brother to the New York state-bred juvenile stakes winner ARAH ACCOMPLISHED.
#10 TIP TAP TAPIZAR (Tapizar – Counterpoise, by Storm Cat) has never finished out of the money in five-lifetime starts, and he’s a true road warrior. He beat Our Stormin Norman in their debut, placed third behind Classic Empire in the Bashford Manor (G3), and was beat up in the Saratoga Special, but still hit the board. In his last start, the Asmussen trainee closed for second place behind Line Judge in the Jean Lafitte Stakes. Veteran jock Gerard Melancon pilots Tip Tap Tapizar. Melancon rode in three of the last five editions of the Jackpot Stakes. He won the Jackpot in 2011 and 2013 and finished third last year.
Pedigree: Tip Tap Tapizar has a sprinter/miler pedigree. He is a half brother to SP sprinter Devine Music. His dam is a half-sister to the multiple SW & sire PEAKS AND VALLEYS, plus she’s a half-sister to the multiple SW ALTERNATE, who is the dam of multiple GSW ALTERNATION.
#7 BALANDEEN (Bernardini – Mamma Kimbo, by Discreet Cat) is ready to take the next step. After beating maiden claimers and allowance runners, the Chris Hartman trainee placed second in the Street Sense Stakes at a mile. Balandeen has been posting strong works at Churchill and outworked a stablemate in his second to last breeze, a bullet five-furlong move. Interesting prospect to hit the board, if he steps up.
Pedigree: Balandeen has the pedigree to handle 1 1/16 to maybe 1 1/8 miles. He is the first foal out of a G2 SW.
#3 THIRSTFORLIFE (Stay Thirsty – Promenade Girl, by Carson City) is making his third start at 1 1/16 miles and finally gets a fast track. He was a determined winner over allowance foes in his last race at Keeneland, getting the distance in a slow 1:46 over a good track, although he got his final 1/16 in 6.07. The Mark Casse trainee owns the highest late pace speed figure in the field at 102.
Pedigree: Thirstforlife has stamina over speed pedigree. He’s a ¾ brother to CAVORTING, winner of Adirondack (G2) & multiple G1SW (Test, Ogden Phipps, & Ruffian S.). Their dam is a multiple SW miler.
#8 HOT SEAN (Flatter – Stormy B, by Cherokee Run) is one of two California shippers. Bob Baffert has brought this colt along nice and easy. After losing his 5 ½ furlong debut by a ½ length, Hot Sean added a furlong and got the job done. He returned to beat allowance foes at a mile last time out in his third start. Oddly, the colt’s Bris Speed Figures are an identical 87 in each race. Hot Sean rallied from off the pace in his debut but fought it out on the front end in his last two starts. Baffert gave the bay colt two very strong pre-race works, including a bullet five furlongs. Could be dangerous if left alone on the lead, but he’ll be low odds and hasn’t beaten much.
Pedigree: Hot Sean has a sprinter/miler pedigree. He’s a half-brother to Fountain of Youth winner ITSAKNOCKOUT & multiple SW sprinter STORM POWER. Dam is half to turf router RUSH BAY & SP sprinter MISS INCLINED.
The rest of the field hasn’t run fast enough to be competitive here.
#2 LINE JUDGE – puts his three-race win streak on the line in the Jackpot. After losing his debut by a neck, the colt has overwhelmed his rivals by a combined 12 ¾ lengths. He was an easy winner of the Jackpot prep race, the Jean Lafitte Stakes. Jackpot rival Tip Tap Tapizar made a move from off the pace to finish second, but couldn’t keep up with his loose on the lead rival. Line Judge’s speed figures have improved in each start, but other than Tip Tap Tapizar, he hasn’t beaten anyone noteworthy, and his speed figures are ehhhh.
#4 OUR STORMIN NORMAN – finally won his maiden in his fifth start. To be fair, his last three starts were on turf. By Blame out of a daughter of Stroll, the bay colt has a classy, Claiborne-bred pedigree, but he may be slower to mature. Keep an eye on him for next year.
#5 DANGERFIELD – ships in from California for Doug O’Neil. Dangerfield has developed a bad/good race cycle. He won his maiden last time out in the Oak Tree Juvenile after stretching out from a sprint.
#9 J BOYS ECHO – is a promising young colt. He’s a last-out maiden winner and outclassed maidens by 5 ½ lengths after some trouble. He has a wonderful pedigree, by Mineshaft out of a G2SW sprinter. His half brother Unbridled Outlaw placed in Iroquois S.(G3) as 2YO. A half sister bore SP miler DEPUTY’S ECHO. So what’s the problem? With only two starts under his girth, the Dale Roman’s trainee isn’t as experienced as the rest of the field, and he’s had problems in both starts. He’s owned and trained by the same connections as BC Juvie runner-up Not This Time. I’ll say not this time for J Boys Echo, but he’ll be one to watch next year.
Favorites have hit the board in the last five editions of the Jackpot. GUNNEVERA shows consistent numbers in all of his races and is the only graded stakes winner in the Jackpot. He’s the lone stalker in the field, so if they drag race on the front end early, he’ll benefit. PAT ON THE BACK has also been steady, albeit against state-breds, but there are no world beaters in here. His pace-setting style will benefit from a rail trip. TIP TAP TAPIZAR is the hard luck horse of the race. He’s a hard trier and gets a jock who knows his way around this track. HOT SEAN is California Speed. He took advantage of a slow early pace to win last time out and could be a dangerous foe if they do the same thing here.
#6 GUNNEVERA (5-2)
#1 PAT ON THE BACK (10-1)
#10 TIP TAP TAPIZAR (10-1)
#7 BALANDEEN (10-1)