11/15/2012 2:02PM

Delta Jackpot: O'Neill stablemates bring class, contrasting styles to wide-open race

Shigeki Kikkawa
Goldencents, shown winning a maiden race at Del Mar, will make his first start around two turns in the $1 million Delta Jackpot.

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.”

[DELTA JACKPOT: Get PPs, watch full Saturday card live]

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.