Smile Politely


Someone is going to earn enough cash this Saturday to make it into the Kentucky Derby. Yes, it’s that time of the year again for that crazy profitable race, the Grade III $1 million Delta Jackpot Stakes. Ten lucky 2-year-olds have lined up to take a stab at the early riches in the hopes of sealing their bid for the Road to the Roses. 2011 marks only the 9th running of the Delta Jackpot; in its brief history, no winner of this race has gone on to win a Triple Crown race, but with some interesting faces entered in this year’s edition, it’s possible this could be the year to change that.

Drill by Alex EversBob Baffert sends out his grade I winner Drill as the 2-1 favorite. Last time out, Drill never really fired and finished a disappointing 10th in a contentious edition of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Before that, Drill was clearly 2nd best to the explosive Creative Cause in the Grade I Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita. As Creative Cause ended up third to the nose-duel between Hansen and Union Rags in the BC Juvenile, Drill’s form stacks up pretty well  here.  Drill’s biggest critics will note he has only won on Del Mar’s Polytrack, so it’s up to this Lawyer Ron colt to prove that he can excel just like his daddy over traditional dirt.

My Adonis has the advantage of a stakes win over Delta’s track already. This son of Pleasantly Perfect took four tries to break his maiden, but never finished worse than 2nd. After he put it together and came home victorious at Monmouth, My Adonis took the Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta by 5 ¼ lengths. Tiz Moe, who is also entered in the Jackpot, finished 2nd after making the turn 4-wide, but was never any threat to My Adonis when the field came home.

If you’re looking for a horse that maybe hasn’t quite shown the best he has to offer yet, take a look at the Al Stall-trained Seven Lively Sins. Last time out, this Stormy Atlantic colt took the lead in the Grade III Iroquois Stakes and showed great promise under Julien Leparoux when they reached the top of the stretch; when Calvin Bo-Rail shot past him on Motor City, Seven Lively Sins came back at him to finish 2nd by ¾ of a length. The lightly-raced colt broke his maiden going 7 furlongs at Keeneland one start back on the all-weather, so he shows some versatility and maybe hasn’t quite gotten the hang of winning yet. This could be his big day.

Sabercat is coming off a 6-length win in the 1 mile and 70 yard Garden State Stakes at Monmouth Park. He broke his maiden at Monmouth one start prior to that, and finished either off the board or third in his three tries before that at Churchill and Saratoga. By Bluegrass Cat, this could be a colt finally putting things together and learning how to be a race horse.   

The Doug O’Neill trained Basmatti was entered in two grade I races before he finally broke his maiden at Santa Anita. He finished 5th in the Del Mar Futurity and 4th in the Norfolk Stakes, so he’s raced against some classy horses, but only found victory after leading all the way on the speed-favoring track and defeated four other entrants.

Other entries in the Delta Jackpot include Jake Mo, who was 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint; Laurie’s Rocket, a winner of two starts and a 4th-place finish in the Hopeful Stakes; and Dougs Buddy, who is undefeated in four starts at Northlands Park, a track in Alberta, Canada, that I didn’t know existed until this writing. (For what it’s worth, Dougs Buddy won three $50,000 stakes races during his time there. Read more about his story here.)

The 1-1/16th mile Delta Jackpot has given us some thrills in its short run thus far. It produced an eventual Breeders’ Cup winner in Big Drama, who won the race in 2008, and an eye-popping finish in 2007 when Z Humor and Turf War finished in a dead heat. With a purse too inflated to resist, the second richest 2-year-old race in the country is sure to continue to bring out increasingly talented juveniles looking for an early start to their Derby campaign.

The $1 million Delta Jackpot Stakes will be broadcast live this Saturday from Delta Downs on TVG and HRTV. Post time is set for approximately 4:15pm ET.

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