©2016 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The Road to the Kentucky Derby takes us takes us to Vinton, Louisiana Saturday for the 15th running of the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) at Delta Downs racetrack. Gunnevera heads the field of 10 juvenile Thoroughbreds as the lukewarm 5-2 morning line favorite. Post time is 4:45 p.m. ET.
Gunnevera comes into the race for trainer Antonio Sano with a 2-1-0 record in five starts including a win in the Saratoga Special Stakes (G2) and, in his last race, he finished fifth in the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes (G1) at Keeneland. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
GUNNEVERA was unhurried early, swung into the six path in the far turn and leveled out late in the stretch.
To date, Gunnevera’s best race was the Saratoga Special Stakes (G2) and with a C Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®, he’s yet to perform on the same level as his sire, Dialed In, who has an A profile.
In his only start as a two year old Dialed In won a 6½ furlong maiden special weight by a half a length at Churchill Downs in November 2010. As a three year old, Dialed In won the one mile Holy Bull Stakes, finished second in a 9-furlong Allowance Optional Claiming race at Gulfstream Park, and won the Florida Derby (G1) by a head over Shackleford en route to an eighth place-finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Gunnevera can perhaps he can be competitive in the Jackpot. But, despite his favoritism, I’m not too keen on him.
Balandeen (10-1) comes into this race for trainer Chris Hartman with a 2-1-0 record in five. Early on, Balandeen struggled finishing off the board in his first two starts.
In August, Balandeen broke his maiden at Del Mar and followed that with a win at Churchill Downs on September 23. Last month, Balandeen finished second in the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs on October 30. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
BALANDEEN tracked the pace early, shifted into the four path in the turn while making a bid but was no match for the winner in the stretch run.
The fractions were fast in this race and Balandeen stalked the pace about two lengths off the leaders. The finish time of 1:35.55 is in the time zone of what I like to see young colts run on the Kentucky Derby Trail.
Bernardini, the sire of Balandeen, did not race as a 2-year-old but at the age of three, he was a fast colt that won races from a mile to 10-furlongs.
He broke his maiden on his second start running a mile at Gulfstream Park in 1:35.57. That’s the kind of time I like to see a young colt run in a mile. Bernardini went on to become a Classic Champion Thoroughbred, compiling a 6-1-0 record in eight starts with $3,060,480 in career earnings.
Notable races won by Bernardini in route to becoming the 2006 Eclipse Champion Three-Year-Old Male include: Withers Stakes (G3, 8-furlongs), Preakness Stakes (G1, 9½-furlongs), Jim Dandy Stakes (G2, 8½ furlongs), Travers Stakes (G1, 10 furlongs), Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1, 10 furlongs) and he finished second, a length behind Invasor, winner of the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1, 10 furlongs).
With an A+ Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®, Balandeen is the best bred colt in this race and he has room to improve in his stretch out to 8½ furlongs.
J Boys Echo (8-1) comes into this race with a 1-1-0 record in two starts for trainer Dale Romans, including a 5½ length maiden win at Keeneland on October 27. Here’s the video and chart call of his last race.
J BOYS ECHO stalked the pace early, angled off the rail entering the lane, was bothered and steadied sharply, altered to the rail and drew away late in the stretch under a steady drive.
I like how J Boys Echo showed a lot of composure and control when he was steadied sharply at the rail on the far turn. He recovered nicely and then went on to win by 5½ lengths.
Mineshaft, the sire of J Boys Echo, was an outstanding route racer who compiled a 10-3-1 record in 18 lifetime starts. He began his racing career in England at the age of three, winning a maiden weight for age race at Newmarket. In November, Mineshaft was shipped to America where he won two more races to close out the season with a 3-1-1 record in nine starts.
As a four year old, Mineshaft really proved himself as a champion and compiled a 7-2-0 record in route to earning Horse of the Year and Champion Older Horse honors. In nine starts, Mineshaft won the New Orleans Handicap (G2), Ben Ali Stakes (G3), Pimlico Special Handicap (G1), Suburban Handicap (G1), Woodward Stakes (G1) and the Jockey Club Gold Club Stakes (G1).
With an A Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®, J Boys Echo also has nice breeding and he has room on improve in his third start of the season. Another move forward will make him competitive in the Delta Downs Jackpot (G3).
Dangerfield (12-1) ships in from California for trainer Doug O’Neill and he comes into this race with a 1-1-0 record in four starts including a 4¼ length maiden win in the Oak Tree Juvenile Stakes at Pleasanton. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
DANGERFIELD prompted the pace to the second turn, rallied three wide and got to terms into the stretch, pushed away to mid-stretch and drew clear under steady urging.
I like the way Dangerfield pressed the pace and then took command in the stretch to draw away to a 4¼ length victory. Dangerfield has a low profile score but his Behavior Index can, perhaps, make him competitive.
Into Mischief, the sire of Dangerfield, was precocious as a two year old and he easily won his maiden debut by 2½ lengths at Santa Anita Park on October 21 2007. He went on to finish second in the Hollywood Prevue Stakes (G3) and followed that with a win in the 8½-furlong CashCall Futurity (G1). The finish time of 1:40.82 was just a few ticks off of the record time of 1:40.74 set by Afternoon Deelites and the second fastest time of 1:40.78 set by Valiant Nature.
In his debut as a three year old in February 2008, Into Mischief finished second in the San Vicente Stakes (G2) and after an extended break, he returned to racing in October winning the Damascus Stakes by two lengths. In December, Into Mischief finished his racing season with a second-place finish in the Malibu Stakes (G1).
After struggling in his previous races, Dangerfield scored a nice win in his last outing and another move forward off of that effort can make him competitive in the Delta Downs Jackpot (G3).
Honorable mention goes to Hot Sean (7-2) and Pat On the Back (15-1), who also have low profile scores. However, their Behavior Index could potentially make them competitive and factors in the exotic wagers.
Hot Sean ships in from California for Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert and he comes into this race with a 2-1-0 record. Here’s the video and chart call of his last race.
Pat On the Back (15-1) comes into this race for trainer Ken McPeek with a 3-1-0 record in five starts, including a 1½ length win in the Sleepy Hollow Stakes at Belmont Park on October 22. Here’s the video and chart call of that race.
This is the fifth consecutive year for Churchill Downs to use a Leaderboard points system to determine eligibility to get into the Kentucky Derby starting gate. A total of 35 races comprise the Road to the Kentucky Derby and a significant change to the schedule is that the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) will replace the Grey Stakes (G3) as a qualifying race.
In addition, Churchill Downs has partnered with the Japan Racing Association to feature the Cattleya Sho Stakes and Hayacinth Stakes as two qualifying races in the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby.
The winner of the Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) will receive 10 points while the second-place finisher will receive 4 points, the third-place finisher will receive 2 points and 1 point will be awarded to the fourth-place finisher. Here’s a look at the current leaders:
2016/2017 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Classic Empire, 30, Mark Casse, $1,459,520
2. Not This Time, 18, Dale Romans $430,210
3. Practical Joke, 14, Chad Brown, $690,000
4. Lookin At Lee, 10, Steve Asmussen, $275,600
5. Gormley, 10, John Sherriffs, $200,000
6. Klimt, 4, Bob Baffert, $380,000
7. Syndergaard, 4, Todd Pletcher, $160,000
8. Straight Fire, 2, Keith Desormeaux, $96,000
9. Favorable Outcome, 2, Chad Brown, $50,345
10. Wild Shot, 2, Rusty Arnold, II, $50,000
11. Recruiting Ready, 2, Horacio DePaz, $43,750
12. Midnight Pleasure, 1, Craig Dollase, $54,000
13. Big Gray Rocket, 1, Bob Baffert, $25,000
14. No Dozing, 1, Arnaud Delacour, $25,000
15. Honor Thy Father, 1, Kenny McPeek, $16,203