11/20/2010 7:59PM

Gourmet Dinner responds to addition of blinkers in Delta Jackpot

Coady Photography
Gourmet Dinner, winning the Delta Downs Jackpot, will ship from Calder to California for the CashCall Futurity.

VINTON, La. - Blinkers on led to a lot of bling for the connections of Gourmet Dinner, who in his first start in the equipment powered to a 2 1/4-length win over Decisive Moment in the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot on Saturday.

The 1 1/16-mile race anchored a card of eight stakes worth $2.3 million. The program was the richest run in Louisiana, and it featured a special daytime post. The large crowd on hand at Delta enjoyed a sunny afternoon with temperatures in the 70s.

 Gourmet Dinner ($42) enjoyed a more forward trip than his last start, when he was second in the In Reality division of the Florida Stallion Stakes in October. He raced next to last, then rallied in that race, but sat mid-pack in the Jackpot as favorite Bug Juice showed the way through six furlongs in 1:11.91. Gourmet Dinner then took command in the stretch under regular rider Sebastian Madrid and went on to cover the distance on a fast track in 1:45.23.

 Trainer Steve Standridge said the addition of blinkers made a difference for Gourmet Dinner.

 “It got him on the bit and kept him closer to the pace and did exactly what we wanted to do,” he said. “We knew we were up against the way his running style is, especially on this track. He was going to be too far back. So, everything worked out right.”

 Standridge, who registered his biggest career win as a trainer in the Jackpot, picked up Gourmet Dinner two races back for owner Sugar Bear Stable. The horse shipped in from Calder Race Course earlier this week, and Standridge said the success Calder-based horses have had in major stakes this year, such as Big Drama’s win in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, was one of the reasons Gourmet Dinner targeted the Jackpot.

 “That was a factor, how well the horses are running when they leave Calder,” he said.

 Decisive Moment, who is also based at Calder, finished 3 3/4 lengths in front of third-place finisher Clubhouse Ride.

Blue Laser and Dreamsrunwild were pushed to the outside fence on the final turn of the Jackpot, when Aces N Kings darted off the rail and unseated his rider, Calvin Borel. Borel suffered a cut to his chin and was scheduled to have surgery to repair a broken jaw on Sunday, according to his agent, Jerry Hissam. Borel is expected to be out six weeks. Aces N Kings also was not injured in the incident, but darted because his stifle locked up, said his owner, Caroline Dodwell.

Gourmet Dinner earned $600,000 for his win, and the graded earnings he picked up likely ensures him a spot in the starting gate for next year’s Kentucky Derby if that is a path his connections choose to take with the son of Trippi.

“I don’t know if he wants to run a mile and a quarter,” Standridge said of the distance of the Kentucky Derby. “But he’s got enough graded earnings to go in the Derby, so that’s certainly in the back of our minds. But we’re not going to look that far ahead. ”

 Standridge said Gourmet Dinner would ship back to Calder on Sunday.

The Jackpot was the final leg of a $100,000 guaranteed pick four that returned $5,551.60. The series ran from the fourth through seventh races. The winning sequence was 8-6-8-1. The pool was $155,275.

Delta handled $3,817,849 on its 11-race card from all sources, which was a record for the track. The previous all-time best handle came on Jackpot Night in December 2008, when the track handled $3.1 million. Delta moved its Jackpot program to a special day post Saturday.