11/19/2015 11:48AM

Jerardi: Exaggerator faces 3 intriguing rivals in Delta Jackpot

Barbara D. Livingston
Exaggerator, shown training last month at Keeneland, is the 2-1 morning-line favorite for the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot on Saturday.

Exaggerator is almost certainly going to be the favorite in the Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs on Saturday, with Beyer Speed Figures of 85, 86, and 84, all in stakes against strong company, including a solid fourth behind Nyquist in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. There is little negative to say about this colt other than the possibility, not necessarily the probability, that he has peaked.

The horse comes off a pair of less-than-ideal trips, so there certainly is a chance that he was about to go forward but did not have the opportunity. If he makes that forward move, he is going to be very hard to beat.

All that said, there are three very intriguing horses with a chance to beat the favorite.

Found Money looks very much like lone speed and just earned a 79, the best Beyer of a five-race career that began in May. Put this colt on the clear lead that it looks like he should have, and he might put up a new lifetime top, which would give him every chance to win.

Sunny Ridge was second in the Champagne Stakes to the big Beyer earned by Greenpointcrusader. That race was in the mud, and Greenpointcrusader obviously did not run close to that form in the BC Juvenile. Still, I wonder if Greenpointcrusader was compromised a bit by the situation that day at Keeneland. Bottom line: I do not think we know the correct context for the Champagne yet. The performance in this race by Sunny Ridge, who increased his Beyer from a 76 to an 86 in the Champagne, should tell us much more.

Whitmore is the most intriguing horse in the race. If you have not seen his only race back on Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs, call it up. Prepare to be dazzled. The gelding got a 75 Beyer with the promise of much more. You can never be certain a horse can go faster until it is actually done, but Whitmore surely looked like he had big Beyers in his future, perhaps even in a $1 million race for 2-year-olds on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

Unlike the Jackpot, the Delta Princess looks very much like a one-horse race with an odds-on favorite. La Appassionata has blown away 16 horses in her two starts and left little to the imagination. Each effort was a straightforward rout, with Beyers of 76 and then 80. None of the other six fillies has gone higher than a 66 in 23 lifetime starts. I doubt any of them could improve enough to have any kind of a chance, even if the favorite does not make another forward move.

If La Appassionata does improve her Beyer again, mark her down for 2016, especially if Songbird is sent on the Kentucky Derby trail.

The Cardinal Handicap is your classic perplexing late-season grass stakes at Churchill Downs. Just about any result is possible.

Button Down gets all the right Beyers, with a 95, 97, and 98 in her last three starts. Any of those numbers can win this. She has been running in graded stakes company in Canada, and the figures can’t be ignored.

Wiener Valkyrie was 66-1 in her American debut a month ago and ran second in the Athenia Stakes at Belmont Park with a solid 95 Beyer, the second-best last-out figure in the field. Unfortunately, there really is not enough data to say confidently that she is going to run back to that number.

Invading Humor is the kind of mare I find irresistible in a spot like this. Just like her last race, where she upset a New York-bred stakes by leading from the start, she catches a field with a complete lack of pace. If she clears the field and sets another moderate pace, I give her a chance at a big price. The 92 Beyer she got that day probably won’t win, but it was a career best for a horse who has won nearly half of her 15 grass races, suggesting there could be a little more there under similar circumstances. These circumstances look quite similar.

If you can excuse Kiss Moon’s no-show on a soft course in the First Lady Stakes, she then becomes a big factor with Beyers of 95, 91, and 93 in her last three, all in stakes over three different grass courses.

Emotional Kitten might be the most consistent horse in the race with Beyers of 92, 93, 91, 92, and 88 in her last five, but she has just one win in two years, and that was an allowance race.