With $1 million on the line and Grade III status, the Delta Downs Jackpot is effectively a "Win and You're In" for the following year's Kentucky Derby – an irresistible combination for many owners and trainers.
But it's also an unpredictable race and never more so than Saturday as the first three under the line each boasted double-digit odds and the $2 trifecta payout of $9,738.40 brought early Thanksgiving to those who stabbed the program right.
Gourmet Dinner, a Florida-bred Trippi colt, was the winner. With Sebastian Madrid up, Gourmet Dinner stayed off the pace, surged to the front off the final turn and drew clear to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Decisive Moment. Clubhouse Ride accelerated quickly down the lane to finish third and the favorite, Bug Juice, faded from the lead to get home sixth.
Gourmet Dinner finished the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.23.
"I don't know if he wants to run a mile and a quarter," winning trainer Steve Standridge said of the Calder-based winner. "But he has enough graded earnings to go in the Derby. So that's certainly in the back of our minds."
The $500,000 Delta Princess produced another, somewhat smaller, bonanza as Bouquet Booth rallied four-wide from well back and was just up in time to post the upset, beating Niji's Grand Girl by a half length. It was another neck back to Grandacious while the favorite, Promise Me a Cat, finished fourth.
Bouquet Booth, a Kentucky-bred Flower Alley filly, got the mile under Shaun Bridgmohan in 1:40.59.
Fort Hood provided another upset in the $250,000 Louisiana Legacy for state-bred juvenile colts and geldings, edging pacesetting favorite Su Casa G Casa by a neck at the wire. Unitas was third. Fort Hood, a Lone Star Sky colt, ran the mile in 1:40.76 with Gerard Melancon in the irons.
Tensas Punch continued the run of upsets in the $250,000 Louisiana Jewel for state-bred 2-year-old fillies, winning by 2 lengths over 80-1 longshot Cat's Production. Lawyer Tiffany was third at a big price and the odds-on favorite, Gone Rebel, got home next to last of 10. Tensas Punch, a War Front filly, was clocked in 1:40.52 under Robby Albarado.
Z Humor was the popular, 4-lengths winner of the $125,000 Delta Mile. The 5-year-old son of Distorted Humor led most of the way, brushed aside a challenge from And Music Came and drew off late. Quindici Man finished third. Z Humor, with Melancon riding, finished in 1:38.71.
And in the 1-mile Treasure Chest Stakes for fillies and mares, Briecat led most of the way and bid adieu in the stretch, winning by 5 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Wynning Ride. Shotgun Gulch finished third. Briecat, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred Adcat mare, finished in 1:38.78 with Patrick Valenzuela aboard.
Saturday's $100,000 Hollywood Prevue is a more traditional prep for potential Kentucky Derby types. While the smaller purse means a victory won't provide enough graded stake earnings to guarantee a spot in the Churchill Downs starting gate on the first Saturday in May, the race is closer to home for West Coast horsemen and a more predictable setting. In Saturday's Renewal, Premier Pegasus flew out to the lead and wasn't caught, getting home first by 1 1/2 lengths over Industry Leader. Awesome Patriot was third. Premier Pegasus, a Kentucky-bred Fusaichi Pegasus colt out of the Summer Squall mare Squall Linda, remained undefeated in three starts. He got the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:22.78 with Alonzo Quinonez in the irons. Winning trainer Myung Kwon Cho said the win by Premier Pegasus provides two possibilities for the $750,000 CashCall Futurity on Dec. 18 -- "this colt and Riveting Reason. It would be a dream to win that race. I'm not certain yet what I'm going to do. We're eventually looking at the turf with this horse."
In Sunday's $100,000 Moccasin Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, odds-on favorite Turbulent Descent stalked the pace, took the lead when asked and drew clear to score by 1 1/2 lengths over Zazu, winning for the second time in two tries. Tales in Excess was third. With David Flores in the irons, Turbulent Descent ran the 7 furlongs on the all-weather surface in 1:23.15. She is a Florida-bred Congrats filly. "What can you say about a horse that hasn't even been asked to run two times now?" queried winning trainer Mike Puype. "She was just on a high cruising speed. Watch David down the lane. He never even moved his hands. She's got all the right ingredients to run a distance and do about anything … . If she comes back well, the Hollywood Starlet has to be the plan. She's a made filly. She's worth a fortune already and would be worth a bigger fortune after a Grade 1."
Rocket Man, the Singapore invader, and One World, the local hope, were far apart on the width of the track at the end of Sunday's Cathay Pacific Jockey Club Sprint but the photo finish camera found them together under the wire for a dead heat. Little Bridge, another local hopeful, failed to extend his unbeaten record to six straight wins but did salvage third. The favorite and champion, Sacred Kingdom, finished fifth, beaten just 1 1/2 lengths for it all. Rocket Man was giving 5 pounds to the co-winner and had some trouble negotiating the turn. With those handicaps to overcome, trainer Patrick Shaw said the outcome could bode well for the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint on Dec. 12. "I don't think I can get him any fitter than he is now," Shaw said. "But I do think we can do some work in the next few weeks to get him used to the right-hand turn." One World, trained by Darren Beadman, was third in the Dubai Golden Shaheen last March. "It's just in the last week and a half that he's begun to come back to his old self," the trainer said. "And that run showed he's just about there." Danny Shum, conditioner for Little Bridge, said his charge would try the big race if selected.
By comparison, Sunday's Cathay Pacific Jockey Club Mile was a tame affair. Able One, giving 5 pounds to the field, made the going, kicked on at the turn and easily held safe old rival Thumbs Up to win by 3/4 of a length. John Moore trains the winner. "I couldn't believe it when he was just allowed to go out there and dictate like that," Moore said. "When you give Able One that sort of lead you've got a hard job in front of you." The old champion, Viva Pataca finished fifth, only three lengths behind stablemate, Able One. "That was a great first run of the season," Moore said of Viva Pataca's effort, "and it should have set him up for his tilt at the Vase."
Aruna raced in mid-pack through the early furlongs of Saturday's $175,000 Mrs. Revere Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, came five-wide around her rivals into the lane and got home first by 1 3/4 lengths. Wild Mia was second with Fugitive Angel third. Aruna, a Kentucky-bred Mr. Greeley filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on "good" turf in 1:46.02 with Ramon Dominguez up. Aruna now is 3-for-3 for trainer Graham Motion since shipping over from France. "I definitely won't run her again this year," Motion said after the Mrs. Revere. "And I won't be in a hurry to run her next year. We'll probably look for something, maybe even Keeneland in the spring. But I'm not going to be in a big hurry to run her early on in the year."
Stormy's Majesty stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Discovery Handicap for 3-year-olds, surged to the lead when allowed to run by jockey Edgar Prado and quickly got off to a 2-lengths victory over Not Abroad. Teaks North finished third. Stormy's Majesty, a New York-bred Stormy Atlantic colt, got the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.02, rebounding from a last-place finish in the Empire Classic. "He broke sharp, and was in a good position," Prado said. "I was very happy with where he was. On the backside, I let him go a notch, and he responded well. I was pretty confident most of the way because he was doing everything so easily. He finished well. I think he's back to his old self. Today, he showed up."
Ravalo broke on top in Saturday's $150,000 Kennedy Road Stakes, took back and then came again to win by a head over Signature Red. The favorite, Fatal Bullet, led for a while but then had to be content with show money at the end. Ravalo, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred Mutakddim gelding, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.00 for jockey Jeffrey Sanchez. "I figured he'd be able to travel, but I didn't think he'd be this great," said owner Lindy Redding "He laid back and then he came on just right."
Ariana D outfinished favorite Sugar Again as both ran from the back of the pack in Sunday's $150,000 Bessarabian Stakes for fillies and mares. At the line, Araiana D was better by a neck. Hooh Why led early in the stretch battle but finished third, a length back of Sugar Again. Ariana D, a 4-year-old, Pennsylvania-bred Rock Slide filly out of the Black Tie Affair mare Derby Tie, got the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:22.97. Winning jockey Omar Moreno said the win wasn't exactly according to script. "I thought I was going to be up at the front," Moreno said. "The gates opened and she was at the back. She was very comfortable back there." But, he said, the off-the-pace trip worked out because, "My horse was really digging in there. I'm glad we got it done."
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