by Jo Talbot

We have had, and will continue to have, plenty of Virginia Derby coverage on The Racing Biz.  But for tomorrow, we’ve unleashed Jo Talbot on Delaware Park’s two graded stakes.

Delaware Oaks

It’s a nine horse field going 1 1/16 miles in the Grade II Delaware Oaks this Saturday with several horses in the mix for win honors.  The top four finishers in last month’s Go For Wand stakes are back for a rematch, along with a few newcomers who figure to make some noise in the stretch.

The 5-2 morning line favorite is Tell a Great Story, winner by a nose of the Go For Wand stakes at 7-1 odds.  She certainly hasn’t done much wrong in her short career, notching three victories in five starts, all in her three year-old season.  Tell a Great Story shares the best last out Beyer speed figure with Ile St. Molly, and she has shown tactical ability–winning both on the lead and pressing the pace.  That tactical skill could prove to be an advantage in a field where several runners look to be gunning for the lead when the gate opens.   Tell a Great Story will be ridden by Forest Boyce, who was aboard Story for her last two victories.

[pullquote]Maracuya should appreciate the turn back in distance.[/pullquote]

The aforementioned Ile St. Molly is the second favorite at 3-1, also with three career victories in seven starts, with two coming in minor stakes company at Oaklawn Park and Delaware.  She and Tell a Great Story are the only horses in the field with stakes victories on their resumes.   Molly was favored by the bettors over Tell a Great Story in the Go For Wand stakes, where she led until the final steps.  Interestingly, her jockey in that race, Joshua Navarro, who was also aboard for one of her stakes victories, jumps ship to ride Dancing Afleet, lined at 8-1.  Navarro is a regular rider for Ile St. Molly’s trainer, Kenny Smith; he’s only ridden five times in the last 18 months for Tim Ritchey, Dancing Afleet’s trainer.  That one’s two career victories have both come on an off track, and her speed figures in those races are significantly better than her two other attempts on the dirt. That said, she is lightly raced and eligible to improve, although she is another in the field who will try to snag the lead from the opening steps.

Maracuya, at 4-1, has the fewest career starts — three — with two wins at the maiden special weight and allowance level.  She was a distant fourth in Pimlico’s G2 Black Eyed Susan, where she pulled to the lead and then tired.  Maracuya should appreciate the turn back in distance.  She also has the career best Beyer in the field, which she earned in her second victory.  Maracuya’s trainer is Ralph Nicks, and when teamed with Edgar Prado, the two win at a 29% rate with a $3.06 ROI.  She is sporting a couple of nice work outs leading up to the event and is my top selection in this race.

Of the remaining horses, the most interesting is Makayla’s Angel, trained by Graham Motion and lined at 8-1.  She has two victories in four starts, both at Delaware Park where she has a perfect record.  Although her speed figures are a notch or two below the favorites, with a step forward she has a shot to garner at least a minor award.  There’s another jockey switch in the race with Jeremy Rose, who was aboard for Makayla’s Angel’s two victories, opting to ride Alli Leigh, trained by Steve Asmussen.  Alli Leigh finished a distant third in the Go For Wand with Rose aboard, beaten 11 1/2 lengths, and there is nothing on the page which would explain Rose’s preference.

As mentioned, while there are several logical contenders, my selections are Maracuya, Tell a Great Story, Dancing Afleet, and Makayla’s Angel.

Robert G. Dick Memorial

The ninth race at Delaware Park is the Grade III Robert Dick Memorial, 1 3/8 miles on the turf for fillies and mares three years old and up.  The race has attracted a field of ten runners with one coupled entry.  The favorite at 3-1 is Aigue Marine, a four year old filly trained by distinguished turf conditioner Christopher Clement.  Aigue Marine has three career victories in ten starts, including two at this distance.  In her only graded stakes attempt, the 1 1/2 mile Grade III Orchid on the turf at Gulfstream, she finished seventh in a field of ten.  Her 3-1 is a bit short in this field, and I’m looking elsewhere for my top selection.

Far more enticing is the coupled entry of Laughing and Tannery, lined at 4-1.  Both horses have won at the distance and both are multiple graded stakes winners.  Jockey Angel Serpa is named on both horses, although he has only ridden Laughing previously.  When coupled with Alan Goldberg, the entry’s trainer, Serpa wins at a 32% clip with a positive ROI of $2.27.   Even if one horse scratches, the entry is my top selection as either is capable of winning this race, with a slight preference for the horse that Serpa chooses to ride.

The only other graded stakes winner in the field is Angel Terrace, a four year old filly trained by Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard.  Her graded stakes victory came in last year’s Grade III Valley View at Keeneland, 1 1/16 miles on the turf where she hopped at the start before besting 11 runners at odds of 28-1.   Angel Terrace’s morning line in this race is 15-1, in part because her two attempts this year have been subpar, although the last can be excused because the race was rained off the turf.  Her speed figures also are below several in this race, but I am inclined to keep her in the mix at least for a minor award given her trainer and graded stakes win.

[pullquote]Far more enticing is the coupled entry of Laughing and Tannery, lined at 4-1.[/pullquote]

Treasured Up, a four year filly trained by Al Stall, also has a win at this distance in her last outing in a minor stakes at Churchill Downs in which she posted a career high speed figure.  Her jockey in that race, Shaun Bridgmohan, is traveling to Delaware for this race.  Other than the entry, Treasured Up is the next most likely winner of this race.

Qushchi, a five year old mare trained by Graham Motion, is lined at 6-1, but is 0 for 3 at the distance, losing to Treasured Up in her last outing.  Although her speed figures are competitive in this field, she has only three wins in 25 starts.  A minor award is probably the best outcome for her in this race.

Of the remaining horses, the one that is the most intriguing is Explainable, a four year old Dynaformer filly was was purchased by Lael Stables — Barbaro’s owners — for $900,000.   Her speed figures are well below the field, but she has only raced seven times, with two victories and two second place finishes.  Explainable is ridden by Luis Garcia, a mid-Atlantic jockey who seems to do his best riding long on the turf.  His horses seem to outrun their odds, and I will use him underneath to try to cash a juicy exotic bet.

My selections are the entry, Tannery and Laughing and Treasured Up, with Angel Terrace and Explainable underneath to round out the field.

Post time for the Delaware Oaks is 4:45 pm and for the Dick is 5:15 pm.  Good luck!