The Road to the 2017 Kentucky Derby continues with the Delta Downs Jackpot

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

November 16th 2016

Just when you thought the sport of horse racing had little to offer after the Breeders’ Cup World Championships until next season…comes the Delta Downs Jackpot. For 2 year-0ld thoroughbred colts, the Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes carries the 2nd largest purse after the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at $1 Million dollars. Races on the Kentucky Derby Trail don’t carry this large of a purse until the final leg of the Derby Championship series in late March/early April.

The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race two weeks ago attracts the majority of the best 2-year-old colts in North America. However, this year, the Delta Downs Jackpot is two weeks after the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile instead of three weeks like it was last year. So some owners probably opted to skip the 14 horse field Breeders Cup Juvenile for this race unless they were overly confident of their chances of winning. Why? Because 1st place in the Delta Downs Jackpot payouts $600,000 and 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points vs 2nd place in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile which pays out $340,000 and 8 Derby qualifying points.

Exaggerator shot up the Kentucky Derby contender charts last year after his Delta Downs Jackpot win in the slop. He went on to win the Santa Anita Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Haskell Invitational. 2012 Delta Downs Jackpot winner Goldencents went on to win the 2013 Santa Anita Derby and two Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile championships in 2013 and 2014. The Delta Downs Jackpot has produced five Kentucky Derby runners the past two years: Exaggerator and Whitmore in 2015 and Ocho Ocho Ocho, Mr. Z and Far Right in 2014. That is just one less Derby runner than the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile has produced that last two years. Yes, injuries played in role in this but a fact is a fact.

Money. Yes there is some big money horses in this field. Hot Sean was purchased as a yearling for $550,000, J Boys Echo for $485,000 as a yearling and Dangerfield for $450,00 as a yearling.

So needless to say with entries from trainers like Bob Baffert, Steve Asmussen, Doug O’Neill, Dale Romans and Mark Casse (who has two entries), the 2016 Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes is a race you should tune into and watch. I think there are probably three potential Kentucky Derby horses in this race. At present, none of them are close to my Fab Five (Not This Time, Classic Empire, Practical Joke, Gormley and Klimt) but a new star is born often along the way on the Derby trail.

Below are the post-positons, weights, jockeys and morning line odds.

The Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes  – 1 1/16th Mile – Saturday November 19th – Race #7 at Delta Downs – Post-Time: 4:45 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Pat On the Back (122) – Albarado/McPeek – 15-1
2. Line Judge (122) – McMahon/Sharp – 6-1    
3. Thirstforlife (117) – Geroux/Casse- 8-1 
4. Our Stormin Norman (117) – Leparoux/Casse – 8-1 
5. Dangerfield (119) – Prat/O’Neill – 12-1  
6. Gunnevera (122) – Castellano/Sano -5-2 
7. Balandeen (117) – Hill/Hartman – 10-1
8. Hot Sean (117) – Pedroza/Baffert – 7-2  
9. J Boys Echo (117) – Desormeaux/Romans – 8-1 
10. Tip Tap Tapizar (119) – Melancon/Asmussen – 10-1  

Race Commentary: Gunnevera is the deserved race favorite having placed 5th in Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland against Classic Empire and Lookin At Lee. However, you never really know about 2 year-olds and how they will take to a track surface. Hot Sean is the 2nd morning line favorite and he has won his last two starts at Santa Anita Park. Dale Roman’s J Boys Echo broke his maiden in his last start at Keeneland and he picks up last year’s Delta Downs Jackpot winning jockey Kent Desormeaux. Mark Casse’s Our Stormin Norman has the highest career Beyer Speed (88) in the field accomplished in his maiden win in a 7 furlong race at Keenland. Overall, I think the race will come down to Gunnevera, Hot Sean, Thirstforlife and J Boys Echo

Thirstforlife ran 3rd in the Best Pal Stakes and 5th in the Iroquois Stakes before winning by a neck in his last start in an 1 1/16th mile allowance race at Keeneland (SEE). He ran the last 2 1/2 furlongs in 30.38 seconds which translates to a very good closing speed of 37 mph. And the track conditions that day was rated as “good” after some rain earlier in the day. Thirstforlife, J Boys Echo and Hot Sean are all racing 5 pounds lighter than Gunnevera. A lot of money will be on Gunnevera, Bob Baffert’s Hot Sean and Dale Roman’s J Boys Echo with Kent Desormeaux on board. So I like betting against the shorter odds horses and would bet on Mark Casse’s Thirstforlife. Casse is very high on this 2 year-0ld who is a half brother to Cavorting.