In case you missed it, there is a $1 million race on tap this weekend, tucked
away at Delta Downs in rural western Louisiana, a fly-by-night racetrack right out
of Casey’s Shadow.
To be precise, the race is the $1 million Delta Jackpot Stakes, and it attracted
a quality field of 2-year-olds from all sections of the United States.
From California come Cooperation and Consecrate, a coupled entry from
Bob Baffert, and Perfect Moon from the barn of Doug O’Neill, who is fresh from
winning the $2.3 Japan Cup Dirt last weeked with Fleetstreet Dancer. From Canada comes
Judiths Wild Rose; from Kentucky comes Fire Slam.
From New York comes Tales of Glory, who will represent Todd Pletcher; from
Louisiana comes the unbeaten Joe Six Pack from the barn of Cole Norman, and
from Arkansas comes a longshot named Mr. Jester.
If Mr. Jester somehow pulls this off, it will be a bigger story in Arkansas than
But win or lose, Mr. Jester is the best story in the race.
Mr. Jester was named by owner-breeder Hayes Biggs for his high school principal
in rural Arkansas. A few years ago, Mr. Biggs named a filly Miss Seffens for his home
room teacher in the same high school, and Miss Seffens went on to win a half-dozen stakes
for Biggs throughout the midwest.
After a long bout with cancer, Mr. Biggs passed away last August, and his
widow, Kaaren, inherited the horses, and kept them with trainer Steve Wren, who
doubles as a cattle breeder in rural Arkansas.
Miss Seffens was the best horse Wren has trained in his 30 years on the racetrack.
That is until Mr. Jester came along.
Mr. Jester came out of nowhere to win a Grade 3 in his first start for Mrs. Biggs, then
finished second in a local prep for the Delta Jackpot. He’s listed at 10-1 overnight with
new rider Roman Chapa, and he is drawn well in post four.
The Jackpot, which will be run at 1 1/6 miles around Delta’s tight turns, is the
second richest race for 2-year-olds in this country.
"Delta really favors speed," Wren was saying Thursday night, "so my horse
will be somewhat at a disadvantage. I’ll need those horses up front to burn
themselves out. My horse is awfully good, and he does have something of a
home-court advantage. It would be great to win this race for Mrs. Biggs."
Another interesting story in the race is America America, the only filly
in the field. She will break from the one-hole under the talented Robby Albarado,
the regular pilot of probable Horse of the Year Mineshaft.
America America is as old school as they come. In an era known for horses,
young and old, receiving tons of down time between races, America America
conjures up memories of the heroes of yesteryear. She already has started 16 times,
with three wins, and earnings of $298,640 to her credit.
It gets better.
Not only has America America started 16 times, she has competed in four
countries for trainer Frank Mourier, and is the only horse in the barn.
America America raced twice at Gulfstream Park, then was shipped to Europe,
where she competed at five different tracks in Great Britain, and one in Germany. She
then was shipped back across the pond, raced twice in Canada, than was vanned down to
Houston (a two-hour drive from Delta Downs), where she beat the boys in the Houston
Texan Juvenile Stakes on Nov. 15 at Sam Houston Park.
"She’s an awfully good filly," says Wren, "but I believe the horse to beat is
Perfect Moon. He has all the class."
After winning just once in his first five starts, Perfect Moon caught fire
last summer in California, winning the Hollywood Juvenile Championship and
the Best Pal Stakes back-to-back to emerge at the time as the premier 2-year-old
on the left coast.
After switching trainers – from Mel Stute to O’Neill – Perfect Moon, a gelded
son of Malibu Moon, finished third to Ruler’s Court in the Norfolk, and third to
Siphonizer in the Del Mar Futurity.
Owned by Royce Jaime, who purchased the gelding from The Hat Ranch after the Best Pal,
Perfect Moon has won three of nine starts, and has banked $243,870.
Cole Norman, who finished second in this race last year with Comic Truth when the
race was worth $500,000, will shoot for the $600,000 top prize with Joe Six Pack, the only
unbeaten horse in the field.
After breaking his maiden forst pop, Joe Six Pack won the Minstrel Stakes by
six lengths at Louisiana Downs, and then beat the fast-closing Mr. Jester by two
lengths in the Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta.
Joe Six Pack, a Silver Deputy gelding owned by Gary and Mary West, the
husband-and-wife who campaigned the good 3-year-old Dollar Bill a few years back, will
break from the eight-hole under veteran Carlos Gonzalez.
If you’re looking for a horse to steal this race, look no further than Joe Six Pack.
He’s a speed horse, ridden by a speed rider, and Cole Norman is the hottest trainer
this side of Bobby Frankel.
Here’s the field for the Delta Jackpot in post position order:
America America Robby Albarado 20-1
Perfect Moon Victor Espinoza 5-2
a-Cooperation Alex Solis 7-2
Mr. Jester Roman Chapa 10-1
Judiths Wild Rose Dino Luciani 3-1
Tales of Glory John Velazquez 6-1
a-Consecrate David Flores 7-2
Joe Six Pack Carlos Gonzalez 8-1
Rush Into Heaven Ignacio Puglisi 20-1
Fire Slam Shane Sellers 15-1
a—Bob Baffert-trained entry
MORE PIESEN CUES: One thing that boggles the mind after looking at the Jackpot field is
the absence of Jerry Bailey. This may be the first million-dollar race all year that Bailey will
miss. Jerry, incidentally, was born and raised three hours from Delta Downs. Meanwhile, Frankel, whose
horses have earned a record $20 million this year, announced this week that -- in response to Hollywood’s
decision to slice its purses eight per cent – that he will not run another horse at the current Hollywood
meeting. "There’s no reason now to run my horses at Hollywood," says Frankel. "I will wait for Santa Anita."