11/20/2011 2:27PM

Delta Jackpot winner Sabercat part of memorable weekend for Asmussen

Coady Photography
The 2-year-old, Steve Asmussen-trained Sabercat gave jockey Gerard Melancon the biggest victory of his career by taking the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot.

VINTON, La.- Sabercat is bound for Southern California following his win in the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot on Saturday. Plans for his campaign moving forward are to be determined, Ron Winchell, who co-owns the horse with his mother, Joan Winchell, said on Sunday.

Sabercat left early Sunday morning for Fair Grounds in New Orleans and will fly to Santa Anita on Dec. 6, said his trainer, Steve Asmussen, who will have a division at the track. Sabercat was a  commanding, four-length winner in the Jackpot. The race was one of the richest offerings for 2-year-olds in North America.  

“I thought he ran super,” Asmussen said. “His last three races have been that big a leap forward. He ran super in his maiden race, beat My Adonis. He came back in a listed stakes at Monmouth and looked fabulous and [at Delta] he beat a quality field, didn’t have everything go his way, and looked great.”

Sabercat had one horse beat in the Jackpot after being bumped hard at the start of the 1 1/16-mile race. He came through horses around the final turn, angled out,  and rolled home to give his Delta Downs-based rider, Gerard Melancon, the richest win of his career. For Asmussen, it continued a recent run that has included winning two Breeders’ Cup wins in early November, and becoming the fifth trainer in North American history to achieve the 6,000-win mark as a trainer Friday.

“It’s been a very special couple of weeks,” he said.

Winchell Thoroughbreds has been a big part of the action. It was with their homebred Basalt, who is out of the Grade 1-winning mare Fleet Renee, that Asmussen hit the 6,000-win mark in a maiden special weight race at Remington Park. A day later, Sabercat gave his owners and trainer their first Jackpot win. The victory was the latest racing success for the family of the late Verne Winchell.

Ron Winchell said his father was in racing for “50-something” years before his death in 2002. The Winchells have raced such horses as champion Tight Spot, who won the Arlington Million; Summerly, who captured the 2005 Kentucky Oaks; Tapit, winner of the 2004 Wood Memorial; Olympio; Sea Cadet; and Pyro, a homebred who took the Louisiana Derby in 2008.

Sabercat on Saturday defeated Pyro’s full brother, Longview Drive, who finished third in the Jackpot. The Winchells sold Longview Drive, a horse they bred, at last year’s Keeneland September yearling sale for $175,000. At the same auction, the Winchells purchased Sabercat, a son of Bluegrass Cat for whom they paid $120,000.  

Ron Winchell, a 39-year-old in the gaming business in Las Vegas, said Sabercat is one of about 15 horses Winchell Thoroughbreds has in training, most of them in either Kentucky or New York.

Basmati, who finished second in the Jackpot, will likely be pointed for the Grade 1, $750,000 Cash Call Futurity at Hollywood Park on Dec. 17, said his trainer, Doug O’Neill. He said the horse was scheduled to fly back to Southern California on Tuesday.