- Associated Press - Saturday, November 22, 2014

VINTON, La. (AP) - Mike Smith kept Ocho Ocho Ocho inside on the final turn to beat D. Wayne Lukas-trained favorite Mr. Z by a neck Saturday in the Delta Downs $1 Million Jackpot.

Undefeated Ocho Ocho Ocho, trained by James Cassidy, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.47 and paid $7.20, $4.40 and $3.

Mr. Z returned $4.20 and $3.20, while Far Right paid $9.20 to show in the field of 10 2-year-olds.

The top four finishers in the Grade III race earn points in the Kentucky Derby series. Ocho Ocho Ocho gained 10 points, second-place Mr. Z 4 points, third-place Far Right 2 points and fourth-place Saratoga Heater 1 point. Ocho Ocho Ocho who is the son of 2007 Derby winner Street Sense, is now in a third-place tie with four other horses in the Derby Series standings.

The Jackpot, now in its 12th year, has helped propel nine horses to the Kentucky Derby, including three in 2012. A record total of $5.2 million was bet on the 11-race program at Delta Downs, which includes wagers from simulcast locations across North America, track spokesman Don Stevens said.

Far Right’s jockey, Corey Lanerie, contested the finish, saying Smith had committed jockey’s interference, but after a brief inquiry, the finish stood.

Ocho Ocho Ocho won his third race since Oct. 14. Mr. Z entered as the favorite, but Ocho Ocho Ocho pulled from the middle of the pack to capture the race.

It was the horse’s first race over a mile, having raced six-and-a-half furlongs in his last win, at Santa Anita. It marked the first time a Jackpot winner was racing more than a mile for the first time.

“I felt we could win it, he’d never been this trip, we’re always concerned about that, however he’s bred for that,” trainer James Cassidy said. “The other side was how he’d handle this race track.”

It turned out, Ocho Ocho Ocho handled the track just fine.

Conquest Tsunami, who started the race in the No. 4 post position, bolted out of the gates along with Prime Engine, who started in the No. 1 post and Mr. Z, who was in the No. 3 post.

Smith exited the gates from the unenviable No. 10 post, but didn’t take long to guide Ocho Ocho Ocho to the rail. Smith found a gap and had Ocho Ocho Ocho inside before the first turn.

“I knew that he was a bit green and that I had to keep him inside and not let him get out,” Smith said. “Once I did that I knew that we would be fine.”

Far Right came from the back of the pack to finish third. It was on the last turn, as he attempted to overtake Ocho Ocho Ocho that Lanerie claimed interference.

Lanerie said he was attempting to follow Ocho Ocho Ocho, when he thought that the horse might not make the turn.

“I reacted to go ahead and get up in there and go about my business,” Lanerie said. “As I made that decision, Mike got him back under control and back down on top of me. I was trying to go inside and he dropped back inside and pushed me into the fence.

“My horse was a little bit intimidated being he was young, which didn’t help,” Lanerie added. “If he would have just gone on through it, I think I’d have been in and out and gone, and might have won the race.”

Cassidy said Smith told him Lanerie had attempted to find a hole that wasn’t there.

“We don’t want (Smith) to be saying ‘excuse me,’ ” Cassidy said.

Cassidy said he plans give his horse a month off, before running him in a prep race at Santa Anita, then the Santa Anita Derby.

“I’ll back off him now, he’s pretty tired today,” Cassidy said. “I’ll probably give him at least a month and then I’ll bring him back up probably late January.”

Smith and Cassidy were two-time winners in Saturday’s stakes races, also teaming up to guide Yahilwa to victory in the $200,000 Treasure Chest, a 1-mile race between fillies and mares 3 years old and up.

Although Lukas didn’t get the big win he was looking for, he still left Delta Downs a winner - another of his horses, Take Charge Brandi, won the $400,000, 1-mile Princess race in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. The 2-year-old entered the race as the favorite.

Wind Chill Factor, ridden by Willie Martinez and trained by Gary Scherer, won the $150,000, 1-mile Louisiana Jewel race among 2-year-old fillies.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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