11/20/2014 2:40PM

Treasure Chest has talent-laden lineup

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Michael Burns
Spring in the Air is a multiple graded stakes winner but has limited experience on dirt coming into the Treasure Chest.

Yahilwa and Spring in the Air were both supplemental entries to the $200,000 Treasure Chest at Delta Downs on Saturday and they figure to start as the respective first and second choices in a strong field of fillies and mares that includes defending race winner Class Included and the up-and-coming Kiss to Remember.

The Treasure Chest, at a mile, is one of the main events on the $2.3 million Jackpot Day program. It is also part of an all-stakes pick four that runs on races 4-7. The bet has a guaranteed pool of $200,000, and the sequence includes the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot and Grade 3, $400,000 Delta Downs Princess. There will be a reduced, 10 percent takeout for those playing the pick four through DRF Bets.

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Treasure Chest (Race 5)

KEY CONTENDERS:

Yahilwa (Last 3 Beyers: 95-91-82)

◗ She was a front-running winner of an optional $62,500 claimer at a mile at Santa Anita in her most recent start Oct. 29 and could prove to be the controlling speed in the Treasure Chest.

“She’s usually either on the lead or right there,” said Jim Cassidy, who trains Yahilwa for DP Racing and has given the mount to Mike Smith. “She should be tough if she likes the track.”

◗ Yahilwa ran well against some of the top fillies and mares in training in September, when fourth to Beholder in the Grade 1 Zenyatta.

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“It was as tough a Grade 1 as there is, and she gutted it out right to the wire,” Cassidy said. “She’s not one that quits. She tries.”

Spring in the Air (Last 3 Beyers: 76-87-81)

◗ She is the class of the field as a Grade 1 winner of $919,818, with her biggest win coming in the 2013 Alcibiades at Keeneland at age 2.

◗ Spring in the Air was fifth last out in the Grade 2 Chilukki at Churchill on Nov. 1. Earlier this year, she was a Grade 3 winner on the synthetic Polytrack at Woodbine.

“Our feeling is that she’s got very limited experience on dirt, but she trains extremely well over it,” trainer Mark Casse said. “We thought her last start was okay. She did get bounced around a little bit. We’re trying to make a decision on running another year or becoming a broodmare. She’s done all she can do on the synthetic. This is a spot that could give us the answer.”

◗ Shaun Bridgmohan has the mount.

Mile champ defends title

Grand Contender will be se eking to win the $250,000 Delta Mile for the second year in a row Saturday. He set a track record last season when he covered the distance in 1:36.80. Since that start, Grand Contender has gone on to win a pair of Grade 3 races, the Texas Mile and Lone Star Park Handicap. The Delta Mile will be his first start since being freshened following his fourth-place finish in the Prairie Meadows Handicap in July.

“He’s doing well,” said Tom Amoss, who trains Grand Contender for Maggi Moss. “He’s coming off a layoff, but he’s prepared very well. We think the horse is ready.”

◗ Grand Contender will break from post 7 under Gerard Melancon.

◗ “He likes that course,” Amoss said. “It allows him to use his speed, allows him to use his athleticism on the turns.”

Grand Contender’s chief rivals in the seven-horse field include Sunbean, a 10-time stakes winner coming off a sweeping win in the $100,000 Gold Cup at a mile at Delta, and Mystery Train, a multiple Group 1 winner in Argentina who invades from Southern California for trainer Darrell Vienna.

Jewel first leg of pick four

The $150,000 Jewel, a one-mile race for 2-year-old fillies bred in Louisiana, is the first leg of the all-stakes pick four. The chief contenders appear to be Wind Chill Factor, third to the stakes-placed Sarah Sis in a Keeneland allowance Oct. 11; Composed, an 8 3/4-length debut winner at two turns at Delta on Oct. 29; and Pitcher, third in the $100,000 My Trusty Cat won by Princess entrant Vivian Da Bling.

◗ General Ike will be getting back to racing with straight 3-year-olds in the $75,000 Sam’s Town, a seven-furlong race run around two turns. He has won three of his last four starts for the team of Fox Hill Farms, trainer Larry Jones, and jockey Kerwin Clark.

◗ Fox Hill, Jones, and Clark also have a top contender in the $75,000 Orleans in Mary Pat. She invades for the seven-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies who have never won a stakes. Mary Pat was fourth in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks.

◗ Sharon’s Boy is returning to the Louisiana-bred ranks for the $150,000 Legacy for 2-year-olds at a mile following a fourth-place finish in the $200,000 Jean Lafitte at Delta. Golden Actor, who won the Jean Lafitte, is a leading contender later on the card in the Jackpot.