Gunnevera shoots from last to first in Delta Downs Jackpot

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November 19th, 2016

The only graded winner going into Saturday’s $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot (G3), Peacock Racing Stables’ Gunnevera kept it that way with an emphatic last-to-first victory. In the process, the 5-2 favorite flattered presumptive divisional champion Classic Empire, who’d left him back in fifth in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) last out.

But Gunnevera didn’t have Javier Castellano aboard at Keeneland. So far, Castellano’s conjured the best from this deep-closing son of Dialed In. In their first time teaming up, Castellano got him up in time in the August 14 Saratoga Special (G2). At Delta Downs, their partnership made it two-for-two.

Patiently handled, Gunnevera bided his time at the rear as pacesetter Our Stormin Norman rattled off fractions of :23.18 and :47.05. As the field advanced down the backstretch, Castellano organized the ungainly-striding colt. Gunnevera began to gather momentum and pick off foes, and by the time they rounded the far turn, he was uncorking a circling move.

Meanwhile, Bob Baffert’s shipper Hot Sean was taking over from the weakening Our Stormin Norman at the six-furlong mark in 1:12.52. His lead was short-lived, however, for Gunnevera was gaining fast and gunning for him at the head of the lane.

Despite still appearing to race awkwardly, Gunnevera blew Hot Sean aside and opened up. Castellano managed to straighten him down the lane, and Gunnevera widened his margin to 5 3/4 lengths at the wire. He covered 1 1/16 miles on the fast track in 1:45.15 and paid $7.80.

Hot Sean was easily best of the rest, four lengths clear of the Doug O’Neill-trained Dangerfield. J Boys Echo, who raced in the proximity of the early pace, held fourth from Balandeen. Pat on the Back, Thirstforlife, Tip Tap Tapizar, Line Judge, and Our Stormin Norman concluded the order of finish.

Gunnevera scored 10 points toward the 2017 Kentucky Derby (G1), and his connections are already thinking of the first Saturday in May. They can be emboldened by the fact that Gunnevera is following in the hoofsteps of Exaggerator – last year’s Saratoga Special and Delta Jackpot winner, who went on to finish runner-up in the Derby and capture the Preakness (G1) and Haskell Invitational (G1).

Trained by Antonio Sano, the bargain $16,000 Keeneland September yearling has now earned $771,000 from his 6-3-1-0 line. Gunnevera started his career chasing Gulfstream wonder Three Rules, finishing second in his debut and fourth in the Birdonthewire. After breaking his maiden at Gulfstream on July 16, he invaded Saratoga to upset the Special at odds of 9-1. Gunnevera ran down Recruiting Ready, the same rival that Classic Empire had nabbed in the Bashford Manopr (G3). But the collateral form didn’t help him in the Breeders’ Futurity, where he flattened out after improving his position in his first try going two turns. Having dispatched his Jackpot foes, Gunnevera warrants another shot at the highest level.

Hot Sean, Dangerfield, and J Boys Echo also opened their Derby points accounts with 4, 2, and 1, respectively.

Photo courtesy Coady Photography