VINTON — A solid start put Goldencents, and his jockey Kevin Krigger, in front, but the horse and rider needed just as strong a finish to win the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot on Saturday.
Goldencents was a wire-to-wire winner, holding off late surges by Bern Identity and Mylute to beat Bern Identity by 3/4 lengths. The race holds Kentucky Derby implications.
“When I got to the final turn, I quote my wife who always tells me to ‘move,’ ” Krigger said. “I played the race like it came. The more I asked, the more he gave.”
Goldencents, trained by Doug O’Neill, beat Bern Identity by 3/4 lengths, running 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.89. The winner paid $7.20, $3.60 and $3.40 in the field of nine 2-year-olds.
Bern Identity returned $3 and $2.60, and Mylute paid $5.40 to show.
Goldencents, the morning-line 5-2 favorite, earned 10 in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series. Touch Magic earned four points, Mylute received two, and Hightail one.
The $1 million Jackpot has sent six horses to the Kentucky Derby, including Sabercat last year.
In 2004, Closing Argument finished second in the Jackpot and went on to finish second in the Derby.
Goldencents, partially owned by Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino’s RAP Racing, was making his third career start.
“This is the best 2-year-old I have ever sat on,” Krigger said. “To come into this type of race with this type of horse, I have been waiting my entire career for a horse like this. This horse is very professional. He’s never rank and never does anything wrong.”
Goldencents finished second at the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park in October after winning his debut at Del Mar in September.
“I don’t know the exact path, but we will probably look somewhere at Santa Anita after the first of the year,” O’Neill said. “Maybe the Bob Lewis Stakes. This horse has been in New York and Louisiana in two of his three starts, so he travels great.”
Goldencents led out of the gate, followed by Heaven’s Runway, which finished seventh. Goldencents, though, did not falter, holding off late surges by both Bern and Mylute.
“When I heard the announcer give the early fractions I thought, ‘Uh oh we are going a little too quick,’ but we all have so much faith in this colt,” O’Neill said. “Kevin kept him out of trouble and didn’t fight him and it worked out perfect.”
Bern, who was a 9-5 favorite by post time, and Mylute both made moves from the outside in the final turn but couldn’t catch Goldencents.
The Jackpot was the seventh of 11 races run at Delta on Saturday. Rose to Gold won the $500,000 Delta Downs Princess race, run prior to the jackpot.
Rose to Gold was toward the front of the pack on the backstretch and moved inside on the final turn to win beat Touch Magic by 1/2 a length, running the 1-mile course in 1:39.38.
Rose to gold returned $7.60, $5.60 and $4.60, while Touch Magic paid $17.40 and $11.40 and Sittin At the Bar paid $6.80 to show.
Nine 2-year-old fillies ran in the stakes race.