WinStar Farm will be seeking its third 2-year-old graded stakes win in three weeks on Friday night, when Rule starts as the possible favorite in the Grade 3, $750,000 Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs.
The 1 1/16-mile race will share a program with the Grade 3, $500,000 Delta Princess for 2-year-old fillies at a mile. The races are two of six stakes on a card worth more than $1.6 million.
The Jackpot drew a field of eight horses Tuesday, with Rule set to break from post 3 under John Velazquez. The horse won the local prep for the race in November, when, in his first start after winning his maiden, he set a track record in the $175,000 Jean Lafitte. Todd Pletcher, who trains Rule, said it was Elliott Walden, the racing manager for WinStar, who suggested the start at Delta.
"The main reason we picked out the Jean Lafitte is that we were trying to make a stakes winner out of him, having the mare," Walden said. "We were wanting to take the path of least resistance, and it looked like the Jean Lafitte would be a little easier than running in the Iroquois or Nashua. Once he won that race with authority, it made sense to come back."
In the last couple of weeks, WinStar has taken down the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue with American Lion and the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes with Super Saver. The farm, which is based in Lexington, Ky., is owned by Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt.
Delta officials made Gallant Gent the 2-1 morning line favorite for the Jackpot, with Rule a close second choice at 5-2. Kent Desormeaux, who won the inaugural Jackpot in 2002, has the mount on Gallant Gent for trainer Craig Lewis.
The complete field from the rail with riders is Gallant Gent, Desormeaux; Uh Oh Bango, Glenn Corbett; Rule, Velazquez; Grand Slam Andre, Shane Sellers; Litigation Risk, Javier Castellano; Bench the Judge, Gerard Melancon; My Time to Star, Robby Albarado; and Oak Motte, Diego Saenz.
"The Jackpot's a solid race," said Chris Warren, director of racing for Delta. "They're all stakes winners, except for Litigation Risk."
Warren said the Jackpot will go as the ninth race and will serve as the final leg of a $100,000-guaranteed pick four that begins with the sixth, the $60,000 Sam's Town. The Princess also is part of the pick-four series. It will go as the seventh race, and it drew a field of nine horses, with Woman Soldier and Best Reward to start as an entry for owner Rolando Cabral.
The field from the rail with riders is Drewman Prince, Will Lozano Jr.; Joanie's Catch, Velazquez; Woman Soldier, Saenz; The Rumor's True, Richard Eramia; Best Reward, Orlando Mojica; Truth and Justice, Joe Bravo; Bella Diamante, Don Simington; Lela, Sellers; and Quiet Temper, Albarado.
Delta offered a new bonus for this year's Jackpot and Princess whereby a Grade 1 or Grade 2 winner who starts in the race would run for an additional $250,000, but none of the horses who entered Tuesday was eligible for the bonus.
Other stakes on the card include the $125,000 Delta Mile, which drew Jonesboro, a multiple graded stakes winner; Ez Dreamer, a multiple stakes winner this year; and Z Humor, who won the Jackpot in a dead heat in 2007.
Delta will have a special first post of 5:40 p.m. Central on Friday. The track's races will be shown on both HRTV and TVG, while Delta will have live streaming video of the card on its website. The forecast calls for showers and a high of 50 degrees, according to weather.com.