Peacock Racing Stables’ Gunnevera looped the field from last to first to win Saturday’s $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot (G3), scoring a financial windfall as well as 10 points toward next May’s Kentucky Derby (G1).

Trained by Antonio Sano and piloted by Javier Castellano, Gunnevera was the 5-2 favorite at Delta Downs after mixing it up against deeper fields. He’d won the historic Saratoga Special (G2) and most recently finished fifth to Classic Empire in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. Classic Empire had since gone on to take the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), presumably clinching an Eclipse Award.

Gunnevera arguably exceeded expectations here. Advancing around the far turn, he drew off by 5 3/4 lengths down the stretch and completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.15.

Runner-up Hot Sean, a Bob Baffert trainee, took home 4 Derby points, and fellow California shipper Dangerfield, from the Doug O’Neill barn, earned 2 points for finishing third. J Boys Echo, the fourth-placer, netted 1 point.

Gunnevera has a Derby-oriented pedigree. He is from the first crop of Dialed In, a male-line descendant of 1977 Triple Crown legend Seattle Slew who was eighth as the favorite in the 2008 Kentucky Derby. Gunnevera’s dam, Unbridled Rage, is by 1990 Kentucky Derby-winning champion Unbridled.

For the full Delta Downs Jackpot recap, see the TwinSpires.com blog.

Also on Saturday, Baffert’s well-regarded juvenile Mastery remained perfect from two starts with a front-running victory in the $100,000 Bob Hope (G3) at Del Mar. The seven-furlong stakes doesn’t offer any Derby points, but it did present a suitable stepping stone to a scoring race – the December 10 Los Alamitos Futurity (G1).

Sent off as the 1-5 favorite, Mastery traveled comfortably while holding a narrow lead early. Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith appeared confident at every stage, and didn’t have to ask the colt a serious question. Mastery edged clear by 1 1/4 lengths from the four-time stakes winner California Diamond, quickening through a final furlong in :11.61 to finish up in 1:23.32. It speaks very well of Mastery’s talent that, as an inexperienced, first-out maiden winner, he was able to dismiss such an accomplished opponent. 

See the TwinSpires blog for more on Bob Hope hero Mastery.

Gunnevera photos courtesy of Coady Photography