11/19/2016 7:20PM

Gunnevera powers past Hot Sean in Delta Jackpot

Coady Photography
Gunnevera, with Javier Castellano up, finishes strong to win the Delta Downs Jackpot.

VINTON, La. - Gunnevera put some Kentucky Derby points in his pocket Saturday when he unleashed an explosive bid on the final turn of the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot and went on to a 5 3/4-length win over Hot Sean. It was another four lengths back to Dangerfield in third.

Gunnevera earned 10 eligibility points for the Kentucky Derby with his Jackpot win, which was the richest race on a program of eight stakes at Delta Downs. The card included the Grade 3, $400,000 Delta Downs Princess in which Shane’s Girlfriend ($8.80) romped by 13.25 lengths.

Gunnevera ($7.80) had one horse beat on the final turn of the Jackpot, a 1 1/16-mile race run over a six furlong track at Delta Downs. He responded like a shot when asked, and circled his rival into the stretch before running down clear leader Hot Sean. Gunnevera covered the distance on a track rated fast in 1:45.15

“I really liked the way he did it today, very professional,” winning rider Javier Castellano said.

Gunnevera let the speed go in the Jackpot, as Hot Sean and Our Stormin Norman took the field through fractions of 23.18 seconds for the opening quarter, 47.05 for the half-mile, and 1:12.52 for six furlongs, pushed along by Balandeen.

“He started running at the end,” Castellano said of Gunnevera. “It was very impressive the way he finished.”

Gunnevera won the Grade 2 Saratoga Special over 6 1/2 furlongs this summer at Saratoga, closing from well back. His trainer, Antonio Sano, said before the race Saturday he felt the horse, who had made one prior start at two turns, a fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity won by Classic Empire, would handle the distance demands. Castellano credited the horse’s success to the efforts of Sano.

“Antonio Sano took a lot of patience [with this horse] and it paid off,” he said. “The connections get all the credit.”

Gunnevera, who was the favorite in the Jackpot, is owned by Peacock Racing Stables. He earned $600,000 for his win in the Jackpot, improving his career earnings to $771,000. Gunnevera has now won three of six starts, starting with a maiden special weight at 5 1/2 furlongs at Gulfstream Park in July.

Gunnevera is a son of Dialed In and was bred in Kentucky by Brandywine Farm and Stephen Upchurch. Sano sent him to Delta Downs a week out from the race, after putting in his final works at Gulfstream Park West.

Gunnevera is the second straight Saratoga Special winner to take the Jackpot, behind Exaggerator in 2015. Exaggerator went on to run second in the Kentucky Derby and to win the Preakness.

Other horses in the Jackpot earning Kentucky Derby eligibility points Saturday were Hot Sean (4), Dangerfield (2), and fourth-place finisher J Boys Echo (1). The remaining order of finish was Balandeen in fifth, followed by Pat On the Back, Thirstforlife, Tip Tap Tapizar, Line Judge and Our Stormin Norman.