Local jockey finalist for prestigious Woolf Award

Veteran thoroughbred jockey Gerard Melancon is in elite company.

Veteran thoroughbred jockey Gerard Melancon is in elite company. The 48-year-old native of Rayne, Louisiana, is currently the 48th winningest jockey of all time with 4,422 victories. Some of those wins include the Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont Park and Grade 1 Louisiana Super Derby, and he’s a two-time winner of the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Jackpot.

With numerous riding titles and records set at tracks such as Delta Downs, Louisiana Downs and Evangeline Downs, it was announced Nov. 23 that Melancon was one of five finalists for the illustrious George Woolf Memorial Award, which has been presented annually since 1950 to a thoroughbred jockey in North America who demonstrates high standards of personal and professional conduct, both on and off the racetrack.

The award is voted on by members of the Jockeys’ Guild with the winner being announced in February with an award ceremony to take place at Santa Anita Racecourse in California next March.

The other five finalists are Victor Espinoza, who jockeyed American Pharoah to a Triple Crown; Eclipse winner Javier Castellano; Joe Bravo; and Joe Steiner.

“I am truly honored and humbled to be nominated for Woolf Award with an elite group like Joe, Victor, Javier and Joe Joe Steiner,” said Melancon.

Delta Jackpot

Exaggerator proved to be the best horse Nov. 21 in the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot. The 2-year-old 4/5 favorite held off a game try by Sunny Ridge to win the big race by a neck as jockey Kent Desormeaux piloted the colt over a sloppy track to cover 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.48. Trained by Kent’s brother Keith Desormeaux for owners Big Chief Racing, the Kentucky bred won for the third time in five starts and earned 10 points in the 2016 Road to the Kentucky Derby Series.

Jet Black Magic won the Grade 3, $400,000 Delta Downs Princess with rider Roberto Morales up for trainer Bret Calhoun and owner Carl Moore. The 2-year-old Louisiana bred filly covered the 1-mile distance in 1:42.14.

The biggest upset of the day belonged to 26-1 longshot Giant Cruiser who rallied from last to first to win the $150,000 Louisiana Jewel with Gerard Melancon in the saddle for trainer Steve Flint and Whispering Oaks Farm and returned $2 win ticket holders $54.80.

Other stakes winners were Cougar Ridge (Robby Albarado, Randy Morse) in the $250,000 Delta Mile; Kyriaki (Mario Gutierrez, Peter Eurton) in the $200,000 Treasure Chest; Sea Vow (Alexander Castillo, Joey Foster) in the $150,000 Louisiana Legacy; Nublado Bling (Gerardo Mora, Eleuterio Martinez Jr.) in the $75,000 Sam’s Town; and Mayla (Colby Hernandez, Bret Calhoun) in the $75,000 Orleans.

There will be no live racing Thanksgiving Day at Delta Downs, but live racing returns Friday, Nov. 27, with a first post time of 5:40 p.m.

Free daily handicapping selections can be found online at theexaminer.com/sports.