11/17/2016 12:26PM

Weekend Warrior for Saturday, Nov. 19: Picks for Delta Downs Jackpot, Delta Downs Princess, De Francis Dash

Nicole Cormier/Coady Photography
Golden Mischief, winner of the local prep for the Delta Downs Princess, has a good shot to win right back on Saturday night.

Last year, the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot was run three weeks after the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. That timing worked for Exaggerator, who wheeled back off a fourth in the Juvenile to win the Jackpot. This year, the Jackpot comes just two weeks after the Juvenile. It remains to be seen how this timing works out, but the Jackpot is still the marquee race of this weekend, followed by the Grade 3, $400,000 Delta Downs Princess, the main supporting event on a stakes-packed undercard.

There is also a stakes-packed program at Laurel Park on Saturday, headed by the Grade 3, $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash.

Delta Downs Jackpot

Gunnevera is the only graded stakes winner this 10-horse field – he won the Grade 2 Saratoga Special two starts back – and is also the only one in this field to have competed in a Grade 1 event – he finished fifth in Keeneland’s Breeders’ Futurity most recently – and that will not be lost on the betting public. Moreover, Gunnevera will be reunited with Javier Castellano, who was aboard for the Saratoga Special score, and that will also conspire to drive down his odds.

It will be no surprise if Gunnevera wins, but I’m not featuring him. His big finish in the Saratoga Special was visually enhanced because pacesetter Recruiting Ready completely fell apart late. And while Gunnevera had been off two months and was stretching out to two turns for the first time in the Breeders’ Futurity, he was put to a heavy drive on the far turn and yet all he did was give a little ground.

:: Delta Jackpot: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live

J Boys Echo is my play. I realize J Boys Echo is moving up significantly off a win at Keeneland over only maidens, and I know he must improve his Beyer Figures to contend here. But from what I saw in his recent score, I’m confident he can handle both.

J Boys Echo, a fast-closing second in his debut two starts back, stretched out to a route last time and was locked and loaded from virtually the start. Yes, he was fortunate to get through inside at the top of the stretch when the pacesetter ducked out sharply. But I was still impressed with the way J Boys Echo drew off late despite being barely asked. He ran through the wire powerfully, like a colt who has much, much more to him, and I’m anticipating a big move forward from him Saturday.

We might have seen the start of a nice rivalry two weeks ago in the Juvenile between Classic Empire, trained by Mark Casse, and Not This Time, trained by Dale Romans. Romans also trains J Boys Echo, whose most dangerous challenger Saturday is, in my view, the Casse-trained Our Stormin Norman.

Like J Boys Echo, Our Stormin Norman comes into this off a Keeneland maiden victory, showing dramatic improvement with blinkers on to score decisively and earn a field-best Beyer of 88.

Delta Downs Princess

There is a lot of early speed here, and I want a filly who can finish. That filly is Golden Mischief.

Golden Mischief showed early foot in her first three starts, all losses. She adopted a closing approach in her fourth start, and has since won three straight, all in decisive fashion. Golden Mischief’s allowance win two back resulted in a field-best Beyer of 82. Her score most recently in the My Trusty Cat, the local prep for this race, was especially good. Golden Mischief was four wide on the first turn and three wide on the far turn, yet still won as much the best.

De Francis Dash

X Y Jet was sensational early this year, but tired badly in the Vosburgh in his return from a knee chip, His trainer, Jorge Navarro, has won at a 31 percent clip this year and at 29 percent over the last five years, but has been relatively cold lately, going only 2 for 16 over the last 30 days.

Stallwalkin’ Dude is the most logical alternative, but I question how strong a field he beat in the Bold Ruler last time, so I’m going with Life in Shambles.

Life in Shambles’s last three dirt performances were strong. He romped in the first two of those, and was second most recently after a bad trip that saw him steady at several points, putting him in a hole he couldn’t quite escape.