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Delta Jackpot: O'Neill stablemates bring class, contrasting styles to wide-open race
Goldencents and Know More played runner-up to Shanghai Bobby and Power Broker in Grade 1 stakes on separate coasts this fall. Saturday, Goldencents and Know More, both from the barn of Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill, will meet for the first time in the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot.
“I look for big efforts from both of them,” said O’Neill. “Both colts are extremely talented, and the great thing is they won’t conflict with each other because they’ve got contrasting styles.”
The Jackpot is for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles and drew a field of nine. It leads a special daytime card of eight stakes worth $2.2 million. Delta, a six-furlong track in Vinton, La., introduced the race in 2002 as a means for horses to earn enough graded cash to get into the Kentucky Derby if that race is oversubscribed. But beginning in 2013, preference into the Kentucky Derby will be determined by points. The Jackpot is worth 10 to the winner, while the runner-up earns 4, third gets 2, and fourth, 1.
A number of horses in the Jackpot could end up on the Kentucky Derby trail. Hightail is the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint winner, while Bern Identity captured the Grade 2 Sanford at Saratoga and then won his two-turn debut in the $200,000 Jean Lafitte at Delta. Itsmyluckyday, meanwhile, had been under consideration for the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct off back-to-back stakes wins at Calder but opted for the Jackpot.
The O’Neill runners are the only field members who have earned points on the Kentucky Derby leader board. Goldencents earned 4 when he finished second by five lengths to eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Shanghai Bobby in the Champagne at Belmont Park. Know More has 4 points for finishing second by 6 1/2 lengths to Power Broker in the FrontRunner at Santa Anita.
The Jackpot will be the third career start for Goldencents. He won his debut wire to wire in a maiden special weight at Del Mar on Sept. 2, with a Beyer Figure of 93. A month later, he set the pace in the Champagne and fought on.
“He’s a classy horse,” O’Neill said. “To ship, second start of his life, to New York, and do what he did was pretty sensational.
“He was not nominated to the Breeders’ Cup, so this is our version of the Breeders’ Cup for him. He would have run in the Breeders’ Cup [Juvenile] if he was nominated.”
Goldencents will be making his two-turn debut in the Jackpot, and O’Neill said the horse has become more relaxed in his recent training. While his natural speed will serve him well on a smaller track like Delta, so will his regular rider, Kevin Krigger, noted O’Neill.
“Kevin rides the bullring well at Pomona,” he said of Fairplex. “He knows the colt and he knows the bullring.
“I think this is a great race to begin the two-turn process of [this horse’s] career.”
Know More also showed talent in his first start, when he rallied to win the Grade 2 Best Pal at Del Mar. He last raced in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita, finishing 13th.
“He never got a chance to run,” O’Neill said. “His post was in the parking lot. He was way out to begin with, and then he kind of got pushed out even more. He was bounced around on the final turn. It just wasn’t his day as far as the way trips went.”
Know More is owned by Reddam Racing and is to be ridden by Mario Gutierrez, who along with O’Neill won this year’s Kentucky Derby with I’ll Have Another.
Hightail will be stretching back out after closing strongly to win his maiden in the BC Juvenile Sprint at six furlongs.
“I think he’s better at two turns. I really do,” said trainer D. Wayne Lukas. “We thought with all the speed in the race last time that it would come back a little bit and he put in a nice run the last eighth.”
Rajiv Maragh has the mount.
Itsmyluckyday is proven at two turns, having won the Foolish Pleasure at Calder in his last start Sept. 15.
“It was his first race going around two turns,” said trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. “We had been dying to run him around two turns and he beat a horse that was undefeated down at Calder, Sr. Quisqueyano, a highly rated horse.”
Itsmyluckyday could stalk the pace Saturday under Angel Serpa.
“I think he can position himself where he needs to be on that track,” said Plesa. “There’s not much of a stretch run, so you’d better be in good position before you get to the stretch.”
It also helps to be able to handle a laboring track, which Central Banker did on the first day of the Churchill meet when he won a first-level allowance by five lengths Oct. 28.
“The track at Churchill has been deep this meet, especially opening day,” said trainer Al Stall Jr. “I thought it was almost a couple seconds slow. I think that might get him used to Delta. Delta is kind of deepish, a sandy track.”
Bern Identity is the lone runner in the field with a win at Delta, in the Jean Lafitte.
The Jackpot will be the final leg of a $100,000 guaranteed pick four that runs on races 4-7. There will be live streaming video of the card at DRF.com.
The two to beat ran one two. Bern Identity appeared to be the better horse if he had not been bottled up on the rail in the final turn for home and was just flying at Goldencents who just held on, all in all great race for team West Coast and congrats to Kevin Krigger on the biggest win of his career.
I like the shipper from Calder and his daddy was a good one. Sandy base won't hurt his chances and the price will be square. That work of 1st out of 113 is an eye opener. Obvious class test.
The move to turf for Know More surprised me. I am waiting to see how he does.
Doug O'Neil makes me nervous. It's really too bad but I probably will never get over the I'll Have Another Belmont fiasco. Something has always seemed fishy about it all and so sudden and staged. I agree with Ms. Chenery that the cheaters need to be weeded out of the sport - not sure about Doug but that must have stung. To me it seemed that maybe they had been running IHA with injuries masked and couldn't get away with it under such strident rules at Belmont or they just didn't want to take a chance of him possibly getting injured since they probably had that 10 million dollar deal under the table. But with a big beautiful fast closer like IHA I find it difficult to believe that he all of a sudden he was injured the day before the Belmont......just my opinion...possibly he had been injured in the the Derby and they ran him anyway in the Preakness, which is my guess. What's new about that? Look at Horatio Luro and Native Dancer. Native Dancer was lucky he survived that trainer's lack of empathy. Not to be negative here - I love Mario and I adored IHA, what heart and fighting spirit.......I hope for all Doug O'Neil has changed his ways. Show us Doug and rebuild our faith in you .I find it extremely hard to believe that Rick Dutrow can still enter a horse in a race anywhere in this world.
Know More is a great horse, but the stables main Derby hopes are planted squarely on Goldencents' shoulders, the horse is a monster in the morning and with some luck staying sound he will surely make some noise in the spring time.
I thought O'Neill was on suspension for drugs?
Is it true that the new qualifying points system for the KY Derby will reduce the impact the results here will have as opposed to when the winner on graded earnings was virtually assured a starting position if healthy to run on the first Sturday in May.
It's first time Lasix again for Lucas and O'Neil... look out.
The Jackpot looks like it is going to be a competitive race. The O'Neill barn has two promising contenders in Know More and Goldencents. It will be interesting to see how Goldencents handles two turns for the first time. Know More will get the benefit of being piloted by Mario Gutierrez. Mario certainly had the golden touch on I'll Have Another and two other stakes horses that race for Team O'Neill. It will be interesting to see what Super Mario can do on Know More. Good luck to both Super Mario and Kevin Krigger on their mounts, as well as everyone entered in the race. Safe, competitive, exciting racing wished for all.
And of course Super Mario has tonnes of bullring experience from riding here at Hastings. Go Team O'Neill!