12/03/2014 12:18PM

Road to the Derby analysis: Delta Jackpot

Coady Photography
Ocho Ocho Ocho wins the Delta Jackpot.

Grade 3, $1 million Delta Jackpot, 1 1/16 miles, Delta Downs, Nov. 22, 2014
(10 Derby qualifying points for a win, 4 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth)

Winner: Ocho Ocho Ocho
Trainer: Jim Cassidy
Jockey: Mike Smith
Owner: DP Racing LLC
Beyer Speed Figure: 90

The move by Churchill Downs three years ago to go to a points system to determine eligibility for the Kentucky Derby rather than earnings in graded stakes has impacted the significance of this race, which during the graded stakes era, was pretty much a Win and You’re In event. But it still attracts runners from throughout the country, being the second-richest race for this division, behind only the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, while offering as many points as the BC Juvenile and 17 other early preps.

OCHO OCHO OCHO remained unbeaten owing to a sensational ride by Mike Smith, who was able to get to the rail heading into the first turn despite starting from the outside stall in the 10-horse field. OCHO OCHO OCHO came through along the rail heading to the far turn to go for the lead, then just did hold off MR. Z following a stretch-long duel while not changing leads in the stretch.

Ocho Ocho Ocho certainly has shown the tenacity to win, but he could not have had a better trip this day.

Mr. Z was an unlucky loser. He raced three paths wide on the far turn while challenging for the lead, engaged Ocho Ocho Ocho at the top of the stretch, and lost a heartbreaker while coming back just three weeks following the BC Juvenile.

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays

FAR RIGHT turned in a deceptively encouraging performance. Though beaten by four lengths, he made a prolonged, mid-race move down the backstretch to enter contention, took up while trying to rally inside on the turn, but did not quit and re-rallied for third.

SARATOGA HEATER, who was fourth, rallied three paths wide on the far turn, took awhile to swap over to his proper lead in upper stretch, and went evenly thereafter.

DEKABRIST, who finished fifth, was far back early and simply passed tired rivals while rallying up the rail. He repeatedly has proven he is not of this caliber.

WAKE UP NICK, who was sixth, stumbled at the start, raced in mid-pack for much of the race, but could not keep up on the far turn when the leaders left him. He will appreciate a return to California-bred company.

Seventh-place finisher RED BUTTON was fanned four paths wide on the first turn and never was a factor thereafter.

PRIME ENGINE, who was eighth, was on his wrong lead coming through the stretch the first time, attended the hot pace of 22.27 seconds for the quarter and 45.74 for the half-mile, then faded.

GOLDEN ACTOR was three paths wide, just inside of Red Button, around the first turn and never got involved.

CONQUEST TSUNAMI led Prime Engine through the quick opening fractions but stopped badly after a half-mile.