Led by morning-line favorite Goldencents, Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint winner Hightail and Grade 2 victor Bern Identity, a strong field of nine juveniles has been assembled for Saturday's 10th running of the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot. The winner will garner 10 points toward a possible starting position in next year's Kentucky Derby on the new "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series.
First post at the Vinton, Louisiana track is 1:15 p.m. (CST), with the Delta Downs Jackpot scheduled for 4:15 p.m.
Goldencents is the 5-2 morning line favorite off his runner-up effort to presumptive champion Shanghai Bobby in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park. Trained by Doug O'Neill, the Into Mischief colt was making only his second career start in the Champagne following a smashing 7 1/4-length debut score at Del Mar. Goldencents drew the far outside post with regular rider Kevin Krigger.
Hightail, who is conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, will be the first Breeders' Cup winner ever to start in the 1 1/16-mile Delta Downs Jackpot and is the fourth choice on the morning line at 9-2. The Mineshaft colt broke his maiden in the Breeders' Cup and will keep Rajiv Maragh in the saddle.
Bern Identity figures to attract plenty of support off his convincing three-length win in the October 20 Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta Downs. Installed at 7-2 by the oddsmaker, the Kelly Breen trainee broke his maiden by 13 3/4 lengths at Belmont Park and then captured the Grade 2 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga. The Bernstein colt recorded a respectable third to Shanghai Bobby in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes two starts previously and breaks from the rail Saturday with a returning Paco Lopez.
O'Neill will have two chances for victory in the race as he will also send out Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes winner Know More. Runner-up in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity and Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes, the son of Lion Heart never handled the footing when switching surfaces in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf most recently and will pick up the services of jockey Mario Gutierrez. These are the same connections of this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another, and Know More is the early third choice at 4-1.
Since 2002, a total of six horses have participated in the Delta Downs Jackpot before going on to compete in the Kentucky Derby as three-year-olds. The most notable was Closing Argument, who finished second in both races during his 2004 and 2005 campaigns.
Saturday's program will also feature the Grade 3, $500,000 Delta Downs Princess and the $150,000 Delta Mile. The Delta Downs Princess is headed by 5-2 morning line favorite Salamera, who finished second to the talented filly Kauai Katie in this year's Grade 2 Adirondack at Saratoga. The Delta Mile will feature 2011 Grade 2 Louisiana Derby winner Pants On Fire and last year's Delta Mile winner, Decisive Moment.
Delta Downs will offer a special $100,000-guaranteed Pick 4 on Jackpot Day, with the $70,000 Orleans kicking off the wager. The Delta Mile, Delta Downs Princess and Delta Downs Jackpot, respectively, are the final three legs.