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Rise Up, with Gerard Melancon aboard, wins the Delta Jackpot Saturday at Delta Downs, which had a purse of $1 million

VINTON, La. – Trainer Tom Amoss put all his faith in veteran jockey Gerard Melancon aboard Rise Up in the $1,000,000 Delta Downs Jackpot for 2-year-olds on Saturday at Delta Downs Racetrack, and was rewarded with a six length victory against Casiguapo and 10 points on the Road to the 2014 Kentucky Derby standings.

Rise Up, owned by Paul and Adrena Van Doren, won his fourth race in six starts this year, which included a six length victory in his most recent start, the Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta Downs. A bay son of Rockport Harbor, Rise Up completed the 1 1/16-mile race in stakes record time 1:44.71 over a fast track and earned a $600,000 paycheck for his owners. It was the second Delta Downs Jackpot victory in the last three years for Melancon, who won the race on Sabercat in 2011.

Sent off as the 2-1 second choice in the 10 horse field, Rise Up ($6.20) broke well from the outside post position and Melancon guided his mount to the front past Mighty Brown at the quarter pole and secured his position down the backstretch holding a half length lead through three quarters of a mile in 1:11.94.

“Down the backside Gerard gave him breather and that’s where the race was won,” said Amoss, who trained his first Jackpot winner, and saddled My Lute to a third place finish in this year’s Preakness Stakes (G1).

From there Melancon let loose on Rise Up, increasing their advantage to three lengths in the stretch.

“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.”

“He broke really sharp,” said Melancon. “My plan was to stall and not get a whole lot of dirt in his face. He got a little rank the first 1/16 or first 1/8 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.

Casiguapo, 6.5-1, second in the Hopeful Stakes (GI) at Saratoga this summer, passed Mighty Brown in deep stretch to wind up second, 1¾ lengths ahead of Rankhasprivileges. They were followed in order by Roman Unbridled, Whyruawesome, Mighty Brown, Big Bazinga, Coastline, Flat Gone and Rum Point. Coastline, the 8-5 favorite, stumbled at the start, then raced three wide down the backstretch but faltered turning for home and wound up eighth.

The 10 points earned by Rise Up moved him into a four-way tie for third place in the Road to the Derby Point standings used to determine starting positions in the 2014 Run for the Roses in case more than 20 starters are entered in the Derby. Rise Up is four points behind Havana (14) and Bondholder (11). Second place finisher Casiguapo picked up four Derby points, Rankhasprivileges, two points, and Roman Unbridled, one point.

It was a big day for both Amoss and Melancon, as they teamed up to win the Delta Mile with the 5-year-old gelding Grand Contender by 1¾ lengths over Agent Di Nozzo in track record time of 1:36.89 for the one mile.