11/20/2014 3:27PM

Talented shippers invade for big money in Delta Downs Jackpot

Barbara D. Livingston
Mr. Z finished second in the Saratoga Special, one of three graded stakes he's placed in this year.

There’s a simple reason the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot, run in the small town of Vinton, La., on Saturday afternoon, has lured shippers from Southern California, Florida, and Kentucky.

“It’s all about the money,” said trainer Jim Cassidy, who will send out the undefeated Ocho Ocho Ocho.

“There’s a million reasons to give it a try,” quipped Mark Casse, trainer of entrant Conquest Tsunami.

“The purse is excellent,” agreed trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who saddles Mr. Z.

The Jackpot, a 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-olds run around two turns on a six-furlong track, is the richest race of the Delta meet, and it rewards its first four finishers with a collective 10 preference points toward the Kentucky Derby. The race is being showcased on a $2.3 million program of eight stakes, which also includes an appearance by the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Take Charge Brandi in the Grade 3, $400,000 Delta Downs Princess. Both the Jackpot and Princess will be part of an all-stakes pick four that runs on races 4-7. The bet has a 50-cent minimum and a guaranteed pool of $200,000.

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Key contenders

Mr. Z (Last 3 Beyers: 89-80-66)

* He has placed in three graded stakes this season, including a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity won by Carpe Diem. In his most recent start, Mr. Z was fifth after dueling through a fast pace in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 1.

“I thought he ran really well,” said Lukas, who trains the horse for Zayat Stables. “He’s a good, solid horse, and I think he deserves a shot in here.”

Mr. Z will break from post 3, and Lukas looks for the horse to be prominent early under Paco Lopez.

“He probably won’t be too far back,” Lukas said.

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

Ocho Ocho Ocho (Last 2 Beyers: 83-80)

He’s an undefeated stakes winner, and given the speed he’s shown in his starts, he’s a threat to wire the field in his two-turn debut. Mike Smith has the mount from post 10.

“I understand it’s a long run to the first turn, which is going to be good for us going into the 10 hole,” Cassidy said. “I’d like to see us one-two-three in the first turn. His first race, he sat off horses, and it didn’t seem to be a problem for him. … He’s got some really good speed, and hopefully, we’ll be able to use that [to get position], take a breather on the backside, and have something for the end.”

Conquest Tsunami (Last 3 Beyers: 79-67-76)

He’s won 5 of 6 starts, including three stakes, with his lone loss a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland.

Conquest Tsunami enters off a front-running win in the Street Sense, a one-turn mile race on Oct. 26 at Churchill Downs. It was his first score on dirt, with his other wins coming on either synthetic or turf surfaces.

“We ran him in the Street Sense to see whether we could make the Jackpot or not,” Casse said. “We felt like he likes the dirt, and we just weren’t sure what to make of the Futurity, so we wanted to see.”

Conquest Tsunami, who has used his speed to win races, will break from post 4 under Shaun Bridgmohan.

“What’s interesting about him is through all his training, he’s been taught to settle and come with a run,” Casse said. “He’s so fast when he breaks – he breaks great – he’s in front.”

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Wake Up Nick (Last 3 Beyers: 74-71-69)

He’s won 5 of 6 starts, including four stakes, with his lone loss a second in the $196,000 Golden State Juvenile on the Breeders’ Cup undercard on Nov. 1.

Wake Up Nick will be racing beyond seven furlongs for the first time.

“It’s his first time around two turns, and I think he can handle it,” trainer Leandro Mora said.

Wake Up Nick will break from post 8 under Mario Gutierrez.

“I think he’s going to be laying close, one-two-three,” Mora said.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 8 Wake Up Nick. Trainer Leandro Mora is 7-3-0-1 with a $4.54 ROI over the past 90 days going sprint to route on dirt. Click for more details. Dan Illman

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Golden Actor (Last 3 Beyers: 82-73-66)

The winner of the $200,000 Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta, he’s a candidate to handle a wet track if the 90 percent chance of thunderstorms materializes as forecast by The Weather Channel.

“He likes the slop,” said Hall of Fame rider Jose Santos, an adviser to owner Jaime Mejia. “The day he ran the first time, it was raining.”

There will be a daytime post of 1:15 p.m. Central, with the card to be streamed live at DRF.com.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 1 Prime Engine. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is 31-9-6-3 with a $4.07 ROI over the past five years in dirt route graded stakes outside of California. Click for more details. Mike Hogan