Goldencents winning the Delta Downs Jackpot (G3). Photo courtesy Coady Photography
Making the Grade, which will run right up until the Belmont Stakes (G1), will focus on the winners of the big races, usually from the previous weekend, who could impact the 2013 Triple Crown. We’ll be taking a close look at impressive winners and evaluating their chances to win the 2013 Kentucky Derby (G1) based on factors such as talent, running style, pedigree, and connections (owner, trainer, jockey).
During the weeks when there are no key races on the Derby trail, we’ll take a look back at some of the key contenders who already have shown flashes of the type of class needed to be a contender for Triple Crown glory.
This week we take a look at Goldencents, the winner of the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot (G3).
Sire (Father): Into Mischief
Dam (Mother): Golden Works, by Banker’s Gold
Breeder:Rosecrest Farm and Karyn Pirrello (Ky.)
Owner: W.C. Racing, Dave Kenney, and RAP Racing
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Perception often does not match reality. Case in point: the Delta Downs Jackpot. The Delta Jackpot, with its lucrative purse, often was vilified by pundits for allowing under qualified horses into the Kentucky Derby under the previous system that utilized graded stakes earnings to determine the 20-horse race for the first jewel of the Triple Crown. A victory in this lucrative graded stakes near the end of the 2-year-old season previously guaranteed the winner a spot in the Kentucky Derby, and according to the criticism left another, more qualified horse, on the outside looking in. The reality was that since the Delta Jackpot achieved graded stakes status in 2006, only two winners actually started in the “Run for the Roses”.
Now that the rules for determining the Kentucky Derby field have been changed to a points system that far more heavily rewards the final major Triple Crown prep races in late March and early April, the immediate assumption was that races like the Delta Downs Jackpot would be marginalized. This year’s edition, however, could have more impact on the Triple Crown races than any of its predecessors.
The 2012 Delta Downs Jackpot could turn out to be a key race on the 2013 Triple Crown trail because it looks like the top three finishers from that race are first rate. Goldencents led at every point of call in the Jackpot and held off Grade 2 winner Bern Identity by 1 3/4 lengths to prevail.
Bern Identity won the Sanford Stakes (G2) sprinting in July at Saratoga Race Course and also visited the winner’s circle after the one-mile Jean Lafitte Stakes in October at Delta Downs. He currently is training forwardly at Palm Meadows Training Center in South Florida for his 3-year-old debut.
Another 1 ¼ lengths back in third in the Delta Downs Jackpot was a talented colt named Mylute from the first crop of champion sprinter Midnight Lute. Mylute has finished in the top three in a trio of stakes and most recently powered to a 10 ¾-length romp in a one-mile and 70-yard race at Fair Grounds that has his trainer, Tom Amoss, targeting the Lecomte Stakes (G3).
GOLDENCENTS WINNING THE DELTA DOWNS JACKPOT
Point is, it certainly looks like Goldencents defeated a couple of very nice colts in winning the Delta Downs Jackpot, and the only race he lost in his three-race career was a second-place finish in the Champagne Stakes (G1) to undefeated Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Shanghai Bobby, who is a slam dunk to take home the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male.
Trained by Doug O’Neill, who conditioned dual 2012 classic winner I’ll Have Another, Goldencents is slated to contest the Sham Stakes (G3) on Jan. 5 and appears to be coming into the race the right way, with a very strong workout on Dec. 27 signaling his readiness.
There are a couple of concerns when analyzing Goldencents’ chances to be a major player on the 2013 Triple Crown trail, and more specifically a true Kentucky Derby contender.
Both of Goldencents’ wins have come when he went right to the lead, opened a clear advantage and won fairly easily. He did not get the lead in his lone defeat in the Champagne, racing just off the pacesetter in second, and was no match for Shanghai Bobby.
Streaking right to the front and attempting to lead the whole way in the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby is a very difficult challenge, one that has foiled some elite 3-year-olds throughout history. Should Goldencents demonstrate the versatility to relax behind the pace and take command when asked by his rider en route to victory in the Sham, or another prep race, he would add a key element to his arsenal moving forward.
Of course, if speed is a horse’s best asset it makes perfect sense to utilize it. But that ratability – the willingness to respond to a jockey’s direction in the heat of battle – is a valuable tool in a 20-horse race like the Kentucky Derby when virtually any scenario can, and usually does, happen.
The second concern, and it is a significant one, is pedigree.
Goldencents is from the first crop of Grade 1 winner Into Mischief, who is off to a nice start at third on the freshman sire list, but of course Goldencents success is a huge part of Into Mischief’s lofty spot on that list.
Into Mischief was a very talented runner who never finished worse than second while winning three of six starts, including a victory in the 2007 CashCall Futurity (G1). He was sidelined for the 2008 Triple Crown races but came back later that year to win the Damascus Stakes and finish second in the Malibu Stakes (G1). Into Mischief is from the first crop of Grade 1 winner Harlan’s Holiday, sire of the aforementioned Shanghai Bobby.
So far, it looks like Into Mischief has the makings of a good sire. But it is far too early to tell if his sons will be able to pass the distance tests that the Triple Crown races provide.
The maternal side of Goldencents pedigree is not one brimming with class as his second dam (maternal grandmother), Body Works, is the only stakes winner other than Goldencents going back four generations. Body Works won a stakes at 1 1/8 miles, which is a plus when evaluating Goldencents chances to excel in longer races. Him dam (mother) Golden Works, however, did not win a race longer than six furlongs.
As with most Triple Crown hopefuls at this time of year (just turning three), the jury is very much out on Goldencents but we should learn quite a bit about him in the one-mile Sham. His talent certainly has caught our attention and it strengthens his case that both Bern Identity and Mylute, two horses he defeated soundly, look like they could be significant players on the 2013 Triple Crown trail.