Ocho Ocho Ocho enhanced his Kentucky Derby credentials with a game win in Saturday's Grade 3, $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot, scoring by a nose after a stretch-long duel with Mr. Z. Unbeaten in three starts, the James Cassidy-trained colt had to withstand an objection and steward's inquiry to earn his first graded victory and 10 points toward a possible spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate.
The two-year-old son of Street Sense completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:45 2/5 with Mike Smith.
Owned by Deron Pearson's DP Racing LLC, Ocho Ocho Ocho stalked the pace in fourth as the field made its way past the Delta Downs grandstand the first time, with Prime Engine and Conquest Tsunami contesting an opening quarter-mile in :22 1/5 and a half-mile in :45 3/5. Mr. Z was also up close tracking the early leaders in third.
Ocho Ocho Ocho advanced along the rail to challenge for the lead entering the far turn, sticking a head in front after three-quarters in 1:12 2/5, but Mr. Z responded to the challenge and stuck his head back in front between calls as the horses neared the top of the stretch.
After cutting the corner, Ocho Ocho Ocho regained a short lead with about a furlong remaining and determinedly outfought Mr. Z. to the wire.
Far Right, who trailed early in the 10-horse field, accelerated rapidly into contention rounding the final bend but was checked in tight quarters along the rail before straightening for home. He regained his momentum in the stretch but had to settle for third, four lengths behind of the top pair. Jockey Corey Lanerie claimed foul against Ocho Ocho Ocho, and the stewards immediately flashed the inquiry sign after the finish, but no change was made.
Off as the slight 5-2 favorite, Ocho Ocho Ocho paid $7.20 for the narrow win. Mr. Z, who recorded his fourth runner-up finish versus graded rivals this year, was the 3-1 second choice.
Ocho Ocho Ocho was making his two-turn debut and first start outside of California in the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" event. He won at first asking on October 11, taking a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight event at Santa Anita by a length, and rolled to a 5 3/4-length decision in the off-the-turf Juvenile Turf Sprint on the November 1 Breeders' Cup Saturday undercard.
Bred in Kentucky by Sienna Farms, he was purchased for $200,000 earlier this year at the OBS April two-year-old sale. The dark bay colt is out of the Horse Chestnut mare Winner and counts as a half-sister Grade 2-placed Private Ensign. His third maternal dam is unbeaten champion and Broodmare of the Year Personal Ensign.
Ocho Ocho Ocho has now earned $693,600.