11/19/2015 3:20PM

Exaggerator, Sunny Ridge vie for Delta Downs Jackpot riches

Barbara D. Livingston
Exaggerator will start in Saturday's $1 million, Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot.

Purse and points. It’s what the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot field is chasing on Saturday. The winner takes home $600,000, while the race’s first four finishers pick up Kentucky Derby eligibility points on a scale of 10-4-2-1.

Exaggerator invades from Southern California for the offering at slots-rich Delta Downs in Vinton, La., while Sunny Ridge is in from New York. The 2-year-olds should start as the top choices in the Jackpot, a 1 1/16-mile race that will be run at a two-turn configuration on the six-furlong oval at Delta. Others making up the 10-horse field include Found Money, Forevamo, and Memories of Winter.

Delta is showcasing the Jackpot on a $2.3 million program of eight stakes. The special afternoon card includes the $400,000 Delta Downs Princess for 2-year-old fillies and the $250,000 Delta Mile, led by Departing. The races will be part of an all-stakes pick four that has a guaranteed pool of $200,000. The sequence has a 50-cent minimum and runs on races 4-7.

:: Delta Downs: Buy PPs, watch Saturday’s card live


Exaggerator (Last 3 Beyers: 84-86-85)

◗ The winner of the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, he enters off a troubled fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Oct. 31 at Keeneland. Exaggerator was shook up from the start, squeezed, and forced down on the rail in the jumbo field of 14.

“He was very, very aggressive, and [jockey Kent Desormeaux] had to repeatedly take a hold of him,” trainer Keith Desormeaux said. “I think it might have constricted his airway a little. It was very stressful down on the inside. It compromised his finishing kick. He still gave a decent kick with all those events happening.”

◗ Keith Desormeaux said Exaggerator came out of the race so sharply that the decision was made to target the Jackpot. The horse will break from post 9 under Kent Desormeaux, who won the inaugural Jackpot in 2002.

“That’s a pretty good run from the chute to the first turn, with plenty of time to find a comfortable spot,” said Keith Desormeaux.

◗ Exaggerator is owned by the Texas-based Big Chief Racing.

Sunny Ridge (Last 3 Beyers: 86-76-67)

◗ He was second in the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont in his last start Oct. 3, just like Goldencents, who won the Jackpot in 2012. Sunny Ridge will be moving back to two turns, a trip he had success with in the $116,000 Sapling Stakes on Sept. 6 at Monmouth.

“When he won the Sapling, I don’t think there were that many 2-year-olds at that time of year, in early September, that had won around two turns,” said trainer Jason Servis. “There may have been a couple on turf.”

◗ Sunny Ridge, who races for Dennis Drazin, will break from post 3 under Irad Ortiz Jr.

“It looks like there’s a lot of speed in there,” Servis said. “He can probably do whatever. I’m glad to have Irad.”

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Forevamo (Last 3 Beyers: 74-69-65)

◗ He won his maiden in the $200,000 Jean Lafitte, the local prep for the Jackpot, on Oct. 24. Colby Hernandez was aboard and has the mount again for Brittlyn Stable and trainer Al Stall Jr.

“There was a loose horse in the race, and he took a hard right [turn] right in front of us,” Stall said. “Colby said our front end came awfully close to that horse’s [back] end, so we got shuffled back, and then he found his stride.”

In the late stages, Forevamo fought off Jackpot contender Harlan Punch.

“He rebroke and galloped out nicely,” Stall said. “I thought it was a little touch of class.”

◗ Forevamo, a half-brother to champion Musical Romance, has since thrived.

“He seems like he’s starting to dial in a little bit,” Stall said. “He’s trained with purpose since that race.”

Saturday’s card will be streamed live on DRF.com. The Weather Channel calls for highs in the mid-60s with a 60 percent chance of showers.