Highlighting the racing across North America this weekend in Saturday's $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot, the latest stop on the Kentucky Derby Trail for 2-year-old hopefuls. Laurel Park has also compiled a very good card on Saturday, headlined by the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash.
A total of seven stakes races line the card at Laurel on Saturday, with the G3 Frank J. De Francis Memorial capping them off in the early afternoon. Worth $250,000, the six-furlong contest has drawn a field of nine sprinters listed on the morning line. Leading the field is X Y Jet, making the second start off his knee surgery and looking to return to the form that saw him run a gallant second in the Dubai Golden Shaheen earlier this year. Both Stallwalkin' Dude and Ivanfallunovalot will be trying to spring the upset, with the former coming off two very good efforts in New York and the latter undefeated in three starts in 2016.
Up next Saturday is Woodbine's G2 Bessarabian Stakes, a seven-furlong sprint for fillies and mares over the Tapeta. Little Red Feather Racing's Midnight Miley is the tepid morning-line favorite, but Ontario-breds Southern Ring and River Maid will both be tough in this spot. Regia Maria, owned by Godolphin, was very game over this distance two back and is coming off a brief freshener.
The open stakes action kicks off at Delta Downs with the $250,000 Delta Mile, in which the Al Stall-trained Great Minds is the slight favorite in a competitive seven-horse field. Fear the Cowboy, Rise Up and Hesinfront all pose legitimate threats in the one-mile dirt contest.
The $400,000 G3 Delta Downs Princess for juvenile fillies follows shortly thereafter, with the Steve Asmussen-trained Golden Mischief listed as the very mild choice in a deep 10-filly field. Contested over one mile, the race may be a perfect spot for the Florida-bred Cajun Delta Dawn, winner of her first four starts amidst state-breds at Gulfstream Park for earnings of over $411,000. Trainer Bob Baffert has also shipped in Jilly, a recent maiden winner at Santa Anita.
Up next is the G3 Cardinal handicap at Churchill Downs, for fillies and mares over nine furlongs on the turf course. Cash Control leads the 13-horse field though she drew very wide in the starting gate, which may leave an opening for Annulment, Kitten's Roar or Real Smart to pick up the pieces.
In the G3 Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar, California Diamond is the most experienced of the field of five juveniles set to contest seven furlongs. The colt has won five of his seven starts, including multiple stakes victories, but the Bob Baffert-trained Mastery was very impressive first out. The son of Candy Ride drew away from the maiden special weight field by 4 1/4 lengths under an easy ride, and may be tough to beat here.
Capping off Saturday's graded stakes action is the $1 million G3 Delta Downs Jackpot, offering 10 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby to the winner. Gunnevera is the favorite for the 1 1/16 mile event, following his victory in the G2 Saratoga Special, but Baffert-trainee Hot Sean appears to be hitting his stride after a game allowance victory at Santa Anita. The Joe Sharp-trained Line Judge should be a factor, along with the Mark Casse-trained pair of Our Stormin Norman and Thirstforlife. Dale Romans is also shipping in J Boys Echo for the race, with last year's winning jockey Kent Desormeaux named to ride.
On Sunday, the G2 Kennedy Road at Woodbine highlights the afternoon. For three-year-olds and up over six furlongs on the Tapeta, the race has drawn a field of nine to start. Leading the group is Stacked Deck, who has put together a solid season up in Canada, though Puntrooskie and Passion For Action will be challenging him here.
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