12/04/2016 11:56AM

Road to the 2017 Kentucky Derby: Delta Downs Jackpot analysis

Coady Photography
Gunnevera was visually impressive winning the Delta Downs Jackpot, but he ran slower than the filly Shane's Girlfriend did in the Delta Princess.

Grade 3, $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot, 1 1/16 miles, Delta Downs, Nov. 19, 2016

(10 Derby qualifying points for a win, 4 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth)

 Winner: Gunnevera, by Dialed In

 Trainer: Antonio Sano

 Jockey: Javier Castellano

 Owner: Peacock Racing Stables LLC

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 Beyer Speed Figure: 86

 GUNNEVERA had proven no match for Classic Empire when finishing fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity in his prior start, but won as much the best against this Grade 3 field with a stirring last-to-first charge in the field of 10.

 He obviously gets along well with Castellano, whose only prior mount on Gunnevera came in a winning performance in the Saratoga Special in August. But the speed figure of this race, though solid, was inferior to the 96 the 2-year-old filly Shane’s Girlfriend got one race earlier on the card in the Delta Princess. Most significant, perhaps, is that this further underscores the quality of likely division champ Classic Empire, who emerged from the Breeders’ Futurity to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

 In this race, Gunnevera lacked early speed, per usual, seemed to resent the early spray of dirt, and changed leads a couple of times coming through the lane the first time. He was taken to the middle of the track down the backstretch, and then swooped past his rivals on the far turn while racing five paths wide. He took the lead turning into the lane, was a bit late with his lead change, and bounded clear. This was a visually impressive race, but you can only get away with a move like that in a race where you are vastly superior to your rivals.

 HOT SEAN, who was second, was hustled away from the gate and was on his wrong lead the first furlong, switched over coming out of the chute, then pressed the pace right outside of OUR STORMIN NORMAN. He volleyed for the lead until surging to the front on the far turn, was quickly tackled by Gunnevera, was no match for the winner but was well clear of everyone else.

 DANGERFIELD, who was third, bobbled a couple of times leaving the gate, raced in the clear in eighth around the first turn, made a big mid-race move while in the middle of the track down the backstretch, wound up about four paths wide on the final turn, could not match strides with Gunnevera when he roared past him on the final turn, and then went evenly to hold third while not changing leads through the lane, beaten nearly 10 lengths.

 J BOYS ECHO, who finished fourth, showed good early speed, pressed the pace while three paths wide around the first turn, lost position nearing the far turn when several of the early trailers made bold bids, tipped out to the five path entering the lane, and made up some ground late in an adventurous trip.

 BALANDEEN, who was fifth, tucked into a good spot just behind the leaders while in the No. 2 path around the first turn, and then saved ground in an ideal spot the rest of the way but was unable to quicken. This was his first try around two turns. He may prefer one.

 PAT ON THE BACK, who was sixth, was only in front of Gunnevera into the first turn while racing inside, angled to the middle of the track down the backstretch and made a big, mid-race brush, advanced to third while three paths wide on the far turn, and then emptied out.

 THIRSTFORLIFE, who was seventh, saved ground into the first turn while right behind Our Stormin Norman, started to lose ground heading toward the far turn, fell back to last while still hugging the rail, and then passed a few exhausted rivals in the lane.

 TIP TAP TAPIZAR, who finished eighth, veered out a bit at the start, raced awkwardly – with his head held high – coming through the stretch the first time, wound up pressing the pace while four paths wide around the first turn, went into the far turn pressing the pace from the three path, and then steadily faded.

 LINE JUDGE, who was ninth, broke sharply but was allowed to drop back through the field and was seventh, while saving ground, into the first turn. He tried to make a move into the far turn while wide but could not keep up, raced four paths wide on the turn and never made an impact. He was on or near the lead in his four prior starts. Based on this race, that seems to be his preferred way of running.

 Our Stormin Norman, who finished last of 10, was headstrong early and darted to the lead. He led into the far turn but began to fade with a quarter-mile remaining and was not persevered with in the final furlong.