Early thoughts on the Delta Downs Jackpot

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

November 19th, 2014

Saturday’s $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot is one of the most lucrative juvenile events on the American racing calendar, and its stature has noticeably risen in the past decade. Among its past winners were Big Drama (2008), who went on to be champion male sprinter in 2010, and Goldencents (2012), who landed his second consecutive Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile earlier this month.

A field of 12 was entered on Tuesday, but only 10 will be allowed to start in the 1 1/16-mile event. Here are some initial thoughts on each of the entrants.

1.     PRIME ENGINE, who was scratched from last weekend’s Bob Hope at Del Mar in favor of this race, debuts for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer after two blowout wins at Emerald Downs when under the care of Michael Puhich. After showing sharp speed in his 5 1/2-furlong debut, which he won by more than 10 lengths, he tracked a moderate pace in the 1 1/16-mile Gottstein Futurity before seizing control to win by more than five. He’ll be tested for class here.

2.     DEKABRIST won a couple early-season sprints at Gulfstream Park, but has been found wanting against stiffer stakes company since July. Owner-trainer Gennadi Dorochenko famously saddled Hero of Order to a massive 109-1 upset in the 2012 Louisiana Derby, but this colt looks as much out of place here on current form.

3.     MR. Z, who placed in the Sanford and Saratoga Special over the summer, was a clear second to eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Carpe Diem in the Breeders’ Futurity two back. He, too, contested the Juvenile, fading to fifth after racing close to a hot pace. That was still a good try, and he could get a favorable stalking trip in this heat.

4.     CONQUEST TSUNAMI captured his first four starts, including a pair of sprint stakes at Woodbine, before faltering to sixth in the Breeders’ Futurity after setting the pace. He fared better in the one-mile Street Sense, an overnight stakes at Churchill Downs, but got away with setting a moderate, uncontested pace. He doesn’t have much experience coming from behind horses.

5.     SARATOGA HEATER has two wins from three starts, but has never run on a fast track and has raced exclusively against New York-breds. His wet-track form could come in handy with rain in the forecast for Saturday, but he’s another with questions to answer regarding his relative class.

6.     GOLDEN ACTOR, a son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, has turned in two bullet four-furlong works over the Delta Downs strip since his authoritative win in last month’s $200,000 Jean Laffitte, the main local prep for the Jackpot. Bred to excel at longer distances, he might be a bit overlooked here for his low-key connections.

7.     RED BUTTON lost his only previous dirt attempt by 10 lengths, but has evidently improved with experience. Runner-up last time in the Zuma Beach on Santa Anita’s turf while wearing blinkers for the first time, he looks like one of several potential sleepers in the field.

8.     WAKE UP NICK captured the 5 1/2-furlong Santa Anita Juvenile, formerly the Hollywood Juvenile Championship, back in June, and subsequently racked up three more stakes triumphs against state-bred or restricted company. He was outrun over a speed-favoring strip on the Breeders’ Cup Saturday undercard earlier this month, and has picked a tough spot in which to make his two-turn debut.

9.     FAR RIGHT, a maiden winner at Churchill Downs in September, next ran fourth to the talented Blofeld in the Futurity and then third to a loose-on-the-lead Conquest Tsunami in the Street Sense. He has a license to improve trying two turns for the first time, but others look a tad stronger on paper.

10.  OCHO OCHO OCHO zipped 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14 2/5 when taking the off-the-turf Juvenile Turf Sprint at Santa Anita on Breeders’ Cup Day, where he was favored at odds of 4-5 in a field depleted by scratches. Although he has never run beyond that distance, he might be the most naturally talented colt in the field. He has a great pedigree for distance, being a son of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and a descendant of undefeated Hall of Famer Personal Ensign.

11.  UNBLUNTED, the first also eligible, exits a 2 3/4-length maiden win at Santa Anita in his second career start. It was a solid victory, but not good enough to suggest he’ll beat a field of stakes veterans.

12.  TWO SIX WINS, the second also eligible, won second time out on dirt at Los Alamitos, but has not been seen since fading to fifth in the August 3 Best Pal at Del Mar. This looks too deep a spot at the moment.

Given the uncertainty of the weather, it’s far too soon to make any definitive selection at this stage. However, Golden Actor, Ocho Ocho Ocho, and Mr. Z look fairly strong on paper, with Red Button a kicker for the exotics.