11/14/2016 2:50PM

Jackpot a big challenge for Pat On the Back

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
With two stakes wins against state-breds, Pat On the Back will make his first start against open company in the Delta Downs Jackpot.

Pat On the Back will be stepping outside of the New York-bred ranks for the first time in his career Saturday in the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot. He will be seeking his third stakes win after victories in the $250,000 Sleepy Hollow last month at Belmont Park and the $120,000 Aspirant in September at Finger Lakes.

Pat On the Back on Monday was flying from his Churchill Downs base to Delta Downs, which is located in Vinton, La. Trainer Ken McPeek said there were several reasons to target the Jackpot, a 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-olds that carries eligibility points for the Kentucky Derby.

:: Delta Jackpot: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live

“We felt like he was ready for open company,” McPeek said. “There’s more to gain than there is to lose. He’s a horse that’s been real professional, been on form, and we figured we’d step him up.”

Pat On the Back races for Harold Lerner, AWC Stables, and Nehoc Stables. He is a son of Congrats who was purchased at auction as a yearling for $70,000 at Saratoga.

“He was a big, strong horse as a yearling and he’s progressed at 2,” McPeek said. “We were fortunate to get him for $70,000.”

Pat On the Back has compiled a record of three wins from five starts, for earnings of $300,020.

Robby Albarado has the mount from the rail in the Jackpot, a two-turn race on the six-furlong, sand-based oval at Delta. It will be the first time the rider has teamed with the horse.

“I wanted somebody that knew the track down there,” McPeek said. “I wanted someone who knew the course, the configuration.”

Albarado and McPeek won the Jackpot in 2006 with Birdbirdistheword.

McPeek is hopeful Pat On the Back will adapt to the conditions at Delta, considering the horse has won races at Belmont, Finger Lakes, and Saratoga.

“He’s handled about everything thrown at him up to now,” McPeek said.

The Jackpot is the centerpiece of the Delta meet, and it will anchor a Saturday card of eight stakes worth a total of $2.3 million. First post is 1:45 p.m. Central, and the races will be streamed live at DRF.com. The Jackpot is part of an all-stakes pick four that will run on races 4-7 and have a minimum guaranteed pool of $200,000.

McPeek also will be active on the undercard with probable favorites in both the $75,000 Sam’s Town and the $75,000 Orleans. He has The Truth Or Else set to run in the Sam’s Town, a seven-furlong race, and Kathballu in its sister race for fillies and mares, the Orleans.

The Truth Or Else enters off a win in a $100,000 optional-claiming sprint Oct. 23 at Keeneland, while Kathballu was fourth last out in the Grade 2 Chilukki at Churchill. Both will be ridden by Julien Leparoux.

◗ Gianna’s Dream, who has won back-to-back Oklahoma-bred stakes at Remington Park, might run in the Claiming Crown Dec. 3 at Gulfstream, trainer Mike Maker said. Gianna’s Dream, who is based in Kentucky, races for Jordan Wycoff. She won the $118,000 Oklahoma Classics Distaff Turf on Oct. 21 and the $50,000 Bob Barry Memorial over the turf at Remington.

◗ Artistic License, who has won her last six starts, including the $75,000 River Cities on turf in September at Louisiana Downs, will be considered for the Claiming Crown, trainer Bret Calhoun said.