With the winner’s share of $750,000 Boyd’s Gaming Delta Jackpot Stakes (gr. III) a lofty $450,000, the 2-year-old who earns the prize is virtually guaranteed a berth in the 2009 Kentucky Derby (gr. I). It is no wonder then that the Dec. 5 main track event drew a deep and talented field of classic hopefuls.
Among the 10 promising juveniles entered in the 1 1/16-mile contest are three Breeders’ Cup starters, an undefeated New York-bred trained by Steve Asmussen, and a talented Florida shipper with four consecutive wins. Post time for the Jackpot is 9:17 p.m. CDT. The $500,000 Delta Princess Powered by Youbet.com Stakes (gr. III) for 2-year-old fillies will go to post two races prior. The entire Delta card will be shown live on HRTV.
Adele Dilschneider’s Terrain was installed as the 5-2 morning-line choice based on his 3-1-0 record from five starts. The Sky Mesa gelding enters off a fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Oct. 25 at Santa Anita Park, where he came from well off the pace to miss by just 2 1/4 lengths on the Pro-Ride surface.
Trained by Albert Stall Jr., Terrain began his career by winning three straight, including the Arlington-Washington Futurity (gr. III), in which he crossed the finish line third by a nose, but was placed first through disqualification. The Kentucky homebred also finished runner-up in the grade I Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland Oct. 4 .
Regular rider Jamie Theriot gets the return call on Terrain, who is out of the Forty Niner mare Minery and will add blinkers for the first time.
Also coming out of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is George and Lori Hall’s West Side Bernie, who finished sixth, but was beaten just three lengths after making up ground in the stretch. The Bernstein colt broke his maiden at Monmouth Park and won the Kentucky Cup Juvenile (gr. III) by three lengths over current entrant Retap at Turfway Park Sept. 27.
West Side Bernie (3-1) drilled four furlongs in :47.60 for trainer Kelly Breen Nov. 29 at Delta, the best of 52 recorded works that day. Elvis Trujillo gets the mount.
Heiligbrodt Racing Stable’s Skipadate comes into the Delta Jackpot off of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, where he finished a disappointing 11th after adding blinkers for the first time. The gray or roan son of Skip Away showed talent when he missed by a head in consecutive turf stakes, including the Summer Stakes (Can-III) at Woodbine Oct. 4. Although he has made all four of his starts on grass, trainer Mark Casse said he is now on his best surface.
“I think turf is his least preferred surface,” said Casse, who won the Jackpot last year when Turf War dead-heated with Z Humor. “He trained well at Churchill and then even better on the Polytrack in Toronto, but I had a stall at Saratoga this summer, and so we breezed him on the turf. I wanted to route him and a (maiden) race came up on the turf. After he won that, we just kept him there.
“I put blinkers on him in the Breeders’ Cup because I thought it would help him focus. I kind of kicked myself in hindsight, but he also clipped heels in the backstretch and Shaun Bridgmohan said he knew he was done after a quarter mile.
“I think he might have an advantage on Delta’s bull ring. The tight turns are similar to what he saw on the turf.”
Gerard Melancon rides Skipadate (10-1) for the first time.
Another Florida-bred who has been impressive is Harold Queen’s Big Drama (5-1), who has captured three consecutive restricted stakes at Calder – all convincingly. Trained by David Fawkes, Big Drama will test open stakes company for the first time. Eibar Coa picks up the mount on son of Montbrook, who has shown early speed in all five of his starts.
Another good-looking colt with early speed is James and Treasa Donnan’s Trinity Magic (8-1), who is undefeated in three starts for Asmussen, the nation’s leading trainer. Trinity Magic broke his maiden at Saratoga this summer and followed with consecutive minor stakes victories at Belmont Park this fall. Last out, the Performing Magic colt went wire-to-wire to win the one-mile Sleepy Hollow by seven lengths Oct. 18. Calvin Borel will be in the irons.
Also to consider is Baccari Racing’s Kick On, a $12,000 yearling purchase who has recorded four straight scores, including the Jean Lafitt Stakes at Delta Nov. 7.
$750,000 Delta Jackpot (gr. III, Race 8, 9:17 p.m.), 2-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Kick On (FL), 119 Ken S. Tohill
2. Terrain (KY), 122 Jamie Theriot
3. Trinity Magic (NY), 119 Calvin H. Borel
4. Three Part Harmony (FL), 117 Robby Albarado
5. Retap (KY), 117 Shaun Bridgmohan
6. West Side Bernie (KY), 122 Elvis Trujillo
7. Big Drama (FL), 119 Eibar Coa
8. Skipadate (FL), 117 Gerard Melancon
9. Stimulus Plan (KY), 117 Kent J. Desormeaux
10. Valid Message (TX), 119 Curt C. Bourque