by Jo Talbot

Welcome aboard to Jo Talbot, the newest member of The Racing Biz team.  Jo will be a frequent handicapper here, and she’ll turn her bettor’s eye to whatever races around the region strike her fancy.  Today, she’s inaugurating our new “Featured Race” column by looking at the Winter Melody, a $50,000 stake for fillies and mares at Delaware Park.

Today’s feature race is the Winter Melody stakes at Delaware Park, a mile and 1/16 on the dirt for fillies and mares three and up.   It’s attracted a full field of 11 entrants, although Sonja’s Angel is expected to scratch, and so may provide a handicapping opportunity.

The morning line favorite at 5-2 is five year-old Twice the Lady.   She certainly fits in this race, boasting a record of six wins out of 22 starts and three wins from seven tries at the distance.  Because Lady’s got no shortage of worthy competition, however, I consider her a vulnerable favorite and will look elsewhere.

Bryan’s Jewel at 7-2 is dropping out of Grade One company, having last raced in this year’s Apple Blossom at Oaklawn.   In that race she had a troubled outing, breaking outward before getting stuck in traffic.   Jewel recorded her highest Beyers in her last two outings, both 91, which are better than Twice the Lady’s best effort.   Another mark in her favor is trainer McLean Robertson,  who is winning at a 22% clip in 2013.  With horses racing back in 31-60 days Robertson’s win percentage increases to 29% with a positive ROI of $3.04.  Alex Cintron will ride Bryan’s Jewel, and the jockey/trainer combination  wins 27% of the time with a positive ROI of $2.27.

FEATURED RACE

The horse with the best Beyer in her last outing is Centring, 6-1 in the morning line.   She is a five year old daughter of A.P. Indy with only nine starts, two wins and four seconds. Centring’s last race was a second level allowance at Gulfstream where she stumbled at the start and finished second in a field of five; the winner that day, Disposablepleasure, returned with a dominant win in the G3 Sixty Sails at Hawthorne.  Both Centring’s wins were on a wet track, though, and the weather forecast for Delaware Park is sunny and warm.  Onepointthreekarats, another five year-old at 6-1 and trained by Graham Motion, offers better value.  With four wins from 12 starts and the best lifetime Beyer in the field, she may be overlooked by the bettors because her last two outings have been less than stellar.  One of those races can easily be tossed because it was on a muddy track which she clearly didn’t relish.

If you’re looking for long shots to round out the exotics, Touch the Birds at 15-1 and Hymn Note at 20-1 fit the bill.  Touch the Birds has been in the money 13 of 17 starts, last finishing second in Pimlico’s Shine Again Stakes a few weeks ago.  Four of her five wins have been at today’s distance, and she has been in the money in all of her ten starts at a mile and 1/16.   Hymn Note’s record is four wins from 17 starts, but eleven of those starts were on a synthetic track.  Her record on a dirt track is more impressive, with three wins out of six tries and two second place finishes.   Hymn Note’s speed figures are lower than the field, but she is the only four year old in the race and is steadily improving now that she is running on a dirt track.

Assuming a fast track, I’d play Bryan’s Jewel to win over Onepointthreekarats or Twice the Lady, rounding out the trifecta and superfecta with Touch the Birds and Hymn Note.

Post time for the eighth race at Delaware is 4:45 EST.  Good luck!