WinStar Farm won the Boyd’s Gaming Delta Jackpot (gr. III) a year ago with Rule and trainer Mark Casse saddled Turf War to a dead-heat victory in the 2007 edition of the lucrative event. The winning combination will team up this time around with the 3-1 morning-line favorite as graded stakes winner Blue Laser leads a competitive field of 10 in the juvenile race Nov. 20 at Delta Downs Racetrack, Casino & Hotel.
Renamed the Delta Downs Jackpot this year and the purse increased back to $1 million after being run for $750,000 the past two seasons, the 1 1/16-mile race is run around two turns on Delta’s bullring-style, six-furlong dirt racetrack. The attractive $600,000 winner’s share, all of which can be used as graded earnings toward the 2011 Kentucky Derby (gr. I), has lured runners from all over the country.
Previously run late in the evening and in December, the Jackpot will now get a 4:15 CST post. It anchors the racetrack’s richest day of racing ever on a card that also includes the $500,000 Delta Downs Princess (gr. III) for 2-year-old fillies. The 11-race program is worth nearly $2.5 million.
WinStar’s Kentucky homebred Blue Laser will be making his first start on conventional dirt. The son of Bluegrass Cat has won two of three starts, both of the wins coming over Woodbine’s Polytrack. After breaking his maiden on Aug. 28, Blue Laser followed up by taking the 1 1/16-mile Grey Stakes (Can-III) by a half-length on Oct. 10.
The only graded stakes winner in the field, Blue Laser will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan.
Monmouth Park-based Sweet Ducky is the 4-1 second choice. George and Lori Hall’s speedy son of Pulpit enters off consecutive wins at the New Jersey racetrack for trainer Kelly Breen, having taken the listed Garden State Stakes in September and romping by four lengths in the Seton Hall University Stakes Oct. 23.
Sweet Ducky, who will be ridden by Joe Bravo, got acclimated with the Delta Downs oval in fine fashion on Nov. 13, shipping in to work a sizzling four furlongs in :47 4/5 in his first breeze over the track. It was the best of 83 works at the distance that day.
Also shipping in from the Northeast is New York-bred Bug Juice (8-1), who has won his last three races by a combined 23 1/4 lengths. Our Blue Streak Stable’s Bug Juice broke his maiden by 6 1/4 lengths at Saratoga this summer, then dominated New York breds in a pair of six-furlong stakes at Finger Lakes, including a 10-length massacre in the Oct. 2 New York Breeders’ Futurity.
Bruce Levine trains the son of Mingun, who will try two turns for the first time. Javier Castellano will have the mount.
Caroline Dodson’s Aces N Kings (12-1) had his five-race unbeaten streak snapped in the Sept. 25 Sunday Silence Stakes on the Louisiana Downs turf last out, missing by a head as the odds-on choice after making a furious late run in the final sixteenth. The Texas-bred son of Jet Phone won his first three starts on the Lone Star Park dirt, then two straight on the Louisiana Downs turf, including the one-mile Sunny’s Halo Stakes in August that he won by more than six lengths.
Calvin Borel, who was aboard Turf War in 2007 when he dead-heated with Z Humor, will fly in to ride Aces N Kings for the first time. The homebred gelding will be saddled by Henry B. Johnson Jr.
The horse that defeated Aces N Kings in the Sunday Silence, Dreamsrunwild, is also back. A 12-1 outsider in that race, the Louisiana-bred son of Offlee Wild turned the tables on his rival after running second in the Sunny’s Halo. He is trained by Steven Duke.
Shipping over from Florida is Our Sugar Bear Stable’s Gourmet Dinner (6-1), who was runner-up last out at Calder in his bid to sweep the Florida Stallion Stakes Series. Trained by Steve Standridge, Gourmet Dinner had won the first three starts of his career in sprints at Calder. A closer in all four of his starts, he will be fitted with blinkers for the first time in the Jackpot.
Also coming out of the Grey Stakes is the third-place finisher, Classic Legacy (6-1), who will make his debut for trainer Bob Baffert. The son of Macho Uno missed by less than a length in the Grey, his first defeat in three starts.
Rounding out the field are Rush Now (9-2), a decisive winner of the Delaware Park’s Oct. 9 Dover Stakes for Tony Dutrow after breaking his maiden by nearly 14 lengths in September; California shipper Clubhouse Ride; and Decisive Moment.
$1,000,000 Delta Downs Jackpot (gr. III, Race 7, 4:15 CST p.m.), 2YO, 1 1/16 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Gourmet Dinner (FL), S O Madrid, 119, S W Standridge
2. Classic Legacy (FL), J Talamo, 117, B Baffert
3. Aces N Kings (TX), C H Borel, 119, H B Johnson Jr.
4. Rush Now (KY), R Albarado, 119, A W Dutrow
5. Clubhouse Ride (KY), P A Valenzuela, 119, C A Lewis
6. Bug Juice (NY), J Castellano, 119, B N Levine
7. Decisive Moment (FL), K D Clark, 117, J D Arias
8. Blue Laser (KY), S Bridgmohan, 122, M E Casse
9. Sweet Ducky (KY), J Bravo, 119, K J Breen
10. Dreamsrunwild (LA), I V Diego, 119, S Duke Also Eligibles:
11. Justin Phillip (KY), G Melancon, 117, S M Asmussen
12. Trubs (KY), J M Campbell, 117, A M Stall Jr.