by Jo Talbot

It’s a compact field of six competing this Saturday in the Grade I $750,000 Delaware Handicap, a 1 1/4 mile event for fillies and mares three and up.  Delaware’s linemaker has installed five year old Royal Delta as the deserving even money favorite.  She is clearly the class of the field with four Grade I victories and another four graded stakes wins to boot, including a Grade III win in Gulfstream’s Sabin this past February.  Royal Delta is the only horse with a win at this distance, including last year’s thrilling rendition of the Delaware Handicap where she bested Tiz Miz Sue by a neck.  While I’m a big fan and certainly think that she can win, she may be more vulnerable than in previous years.  Royal Delta tired badly in the Dubai World Cup in March and subsequently was a distant second in a Grade 2 event at Churchill Downs.

There are a few other horses that can throw a potential wrench into Royal Delta’s plans for a repeat victory.  One of them is Summer Applause, lined at 7-2 and boasting three graded stakes victories on her resume.  In her last outing, Summer Applause won the Grade III DuPont Distaff at 1 1/16 miles at Pimlico’s spring meet this year.  However, her speed figures are below a few others in the field, and I am not convinced that her breeding –Harlan’s Holiday out of a Royal Academy mare — serves her well at 1 ¼ miles.

A horse with a better shot at dethroning last year’s champ is Authenticity, the second favorite at 3-1.  She is a six year old mare who has only eight lifetime starts — including five this year.  She recently notched a victory in the Grade II LaTroin at Churchill Downs and placed in two other graded stakes events, including the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps.  In that race, she lost by ½ length to last year’s Del Cap runner-up Tiz Miz Sue.  Authenticity has posted double digit Beyer speed figures in her last two races and appears to be moving in the right direction.  She, along with Summer Applause, is cross entered in the Shubee in Saratoga.  As Royal Delta’s main threat, I suspect she will probably run here.

Centring, at 6-1, is a five year old mare with two wins in ten starts, but is 0-3 this year.  While she posted a career best Beyer in the Ogden Phipps, she was beaten a length by Authenticity in that race.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she bounced a bit in this start.

The two other horses in the field, She’s All In and And Why Not, are both lined at 15-1.  The latter has only one career victory to her name in 13 starts and appears over-matched in this field.  She’s All In, a six year old mare with 14 victories in 34 starts, is a Grade III winner, but is 0 for 5 this year.  Her best racing days may be past.

When they hit the wire on Saturday, I’ll pick Authenticity to edge out Royal Delta.  If Summer Applause races, she will round out my trifecta; otherwise, I’ll slide Centring in underneath.

Post time for the the ninth race at Delaware is 5:20 pm.  Good luck!

(Featured image, of Royal Delta edging Tiz Miz Sue in last year’s Del ‘Cap, is copyright Delaware Park.)