Rise Up turned in a dominating performance in Saturday's Grade 3, $1,000,000 Delta Downs Jackpot, leading wire to wire for a six-length decision. Now a three-time stakes victor for trainer Tom Amoss, the two-year-old colt put himself on the leaderboard for next year's Run for the Roses, picking up 10 points for winning the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" event.
A son of Rockport Harbor, Rise Up established a new stakes record when completing the 1 1/16-mile test in 1:44.71 on the fast Delta Downs oval, shaving .01 seconds off Big Drama's previous mark in 2008. Jockey Gerard Melancon, a native of Louisiana and based at Delta Downs currently, became the first two-time winner in the 11-year history of the race, scoring also with Sabercat in 2011.
Rise Up, who is owned by Paul and Andrena Van Doren, broke from the far outside post among 10 rivals and quickly seized the initiative at the start. He completed the opening quarter-mile mark in :22 4/5 and led by a length after half-mile in :46 1/5, with Rum Point, Casiguapo and Mighty Brown all tracking behind the front-runner.
After three-quarters in 1:11 4/5, Rise Up was asked for run approaching the conclusion of the far turn and quickly opened up on the field, storming into the stretch drive with a commanding advantage. The outcome was never in doubt as the winner cruised to the finish line.
Off as the 2-1 second favorite, Rise Up paid $6.20 to win.
"He broke really sharp," Melancon said. "My plan was to stall and not get a whole lot of dirt in his face. He got a little rank the first sixteenth or first eighth of a mile and I had a couple horses inside of me. I was like, 'well I don't want to get hung up in a speed duel with these.' He came back to me and set his ears straight up and I was like, 'this is where I want you.' Around the turn, I said from here if they beat us, they're going to have to outrun us."
"Down the backside," Amoss said, "Gerard gave him breather and that's where the race was won.
"I've been guilty so many times of taking horses with so much tactical speed and making them something they're not," Amoss admitted. "Maybe I almost did that today, but Gerard took it out of my hands and let him use his speed correctly and got us the win today. So he gets the gold star."
Casiguapo, who was exiting a fourth in the Grade 1 Champagne, proved second-best as the 6-1 fourth choice, 1 3/4 lengths better than the 6-1 Rankhasprivileges, a debut maiden winner at Keeneland in his lone previous start. It was another neck to 89-1 longshot Roman Unbridled in fourth.
Next came Whyruawesome, Mighty Brown, Big Bazinga and Coastline, who stumbled at the start and was never a factor as the 8-5 favorite. Flat Gone and Rum Point rounded out the order of finish.
Bred in Kentucky by Cottonwood Stables LLC, Rise Up finished second when making his career debut in a 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weight event at Presque Isle Downs in early June and broke his maiden 3 1/2 weeks later at the same level going five furlongs on the Tapeta.
He made his stakes debut a winning one in the August 3 Mountaineer Juvenile, wiring his foes by a 4 3/4-length margin, but did not make the early lead and weakened to sixth when stepping up to face Grade 3 foes in the September 7 Iroquois at Churchill Downs.
Rise Up rebounded from the setback in style, recording a 6 1/2-length victory in wire-to-wire fashion in the October 26 Jean Lafitte at Delta Downs, and carried that form forward on Saturday. He's now earned $810,633 from a 6-4-1-0 ledger.
"As the race went through my mind this morning, I felt that some very good horses have competed in this race," said Amoss, who won his first $1 million race as a trainer.
Last year, the Amoss-trained Mylute finished third in the Jackpot to Goldencents, subsequent hero of the Santa Anita Derby and Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.
"Mylute ran second in the Louisiana Derby and third in the Preakness," Amoss noted. "I thought this was a very good field and I'm excited to be in this kind of company. Hard to believe it's still Grade 3 status."
Out of the winning Johannesburg mare Appenzell, Rise Up counts Grade 2 winner Beal Street Blues as his third maternal dam. This is also the female family of 1989 Fountain of Youth and Hutcheson winner Dixieland Brass.