Delta Downs to crown its champ today

By By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

VINTON — Delta Downs is set to throw its biggest racing party of the year.

Today, the Vinton track will play host to not only a big day of racing, but also a few horses, trainers and owners who have

dreams of big things on the first Saturday in May in Kentucky.

The $1 million Delta Jackpot, the second richest Grade 3 race for 2-year-olds in the country, will highlight an afternoon

of racing. Winner of the Jackpot will earn 10 points toward a possible starting position in next year’s Kentucky Derby.

That makes today’s Jackpot a big part of the new “Road to the Kentucky Derby series.

First post for today’s races is set for 1:15 p.m. The Delta Jackpot, which has nine horses entered, is set for 4:15 p.m.

Six horses have used the Delta Jackpot as a launching pad to the Kentucky Derby since 2002. The best finish was provided by

Closing Argument, who finished second in both races starting with the 2004 Jackpot.

The favorite for today’s race is

Goldencents, which posted a morning line of 5-2, is coming off a

second-place finish in the

Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park. He finished only behind

favorite Shanghai Bobby, considered a real Derby contender,

in just his second start. Kevin Krigger will be on board the

favorite and Doug O’Neill is the trainer.

O’Neill will have also send Know More

to the starting gate Saturday. The winner of the Best Pal Stakes and

runner-up in two

other races, has a morning line of 4-1. He comes to Vinton on the

same path as this year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner

I’ll Have Another and will be ridden by Mario Gutierrez.

Also in play will be Hightail, who at

9-2 is considered a solid contender and is conditioned by Hall of Fame

trainer D. Wayne

Lukas. He is set to become the first Breeders’ Cup winner ever to

start in the 1 1/16-mile Jackpot. Rajiv Maragh will be in

the saddle for Hightail cones again.

Bern Identity was installed at 7-2 after his three-length win in the Jean Lafitte States at Delta Downs just about a month

ago. The colt was third in the Hopeful Stakes and is trained by Kelly Breen and will once again be ridden by Paco Lopez.

Today’s program will also feature the Grade 3, $500,000 Delta Downs Princess and the $150,000 Delta Mile.

Salamera is a 5-2 morning line favorite

in the Princess race. Last year’s Louisiana Derby winner Pants On Fire

and defending

champ Decisive Moment lead the field in the Delta Mile. Delta

Downs will offer a special $100,000-guaranteed Pick 4 on Jackpot

Day, with the $70,000 Orleans kicking off the wager. The Delta

Mile, Delta Downs Princess and Delta Downs Jackpot, respectively,

are the final three legs.