From a Delaware Park release
The 77th season of live racing at Delaware Park concluded with mixed results on Wednesday, October 22. On a positive note, the winner of the Delaware Handicap emerged as a leading contender in the Distaff division for the fourth consecutive year. However, average daily all-sources handle declined as compared with the 2013 season.
The Delaware Handicap was run as a Grade I race for the second time since 1989. On July 12, Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables, and Gary Aisquith’s Belle Gallantey, posted an upset victory over the heavy favorite, Princess of Sylmar, in the filly and mare summer classic. The 5-year-old daughter of After Market, conditioned by Rudy Rodriguez, followed with a victory in the Grade I Beldame at Belmont Park, which stamped her as one of the leading contenders in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff set to be run on October 31.
For the fourth straight year, the Delaware Handicap could produce the champion of the filly and mare division. Two-time Delaware Handicap champion, Royal Delta, won the award in 2013 and 2012, and Havre de Grace finished second to her arch-rival, Blind Luck, in 2011, before being named Horse of the Year and the champion of the filly and mare division.
“Once again, the Delaware Handicap has proven to be a pivotal stepping stone on the road to the filly and mare championship,” said John Mooney, the Executive Director of Racing. “We are very proud of the unique and special history of our signature race and especially proud of the success that past runners have enjoyed in national races. I congratulate the connections of Belle Gallantey on the 2014 Delaware Handicap victory and wish them the best of luck in her race to be named the filly and mare champion.”
Jockey Carol Cedeno notched her first riding title by recording 50 winners. Juan Vazquez captured the race for leading trainer by notching 49 winners. This is the third leading trainer title won by Vazquez, who was also the leading trainer in 2010 and 2011. King Star won the leading owner title with 20 wins.
Total handle for the 80-day meet was $102,834,201, as compared to $115,151,678 last year, a decline of 10.7%. The average per race day of $1,285,428 was down from the 2013 average of $1,421,626, a decline of 9.6%.
The decline in average daily handle was due in part to a decrease in the average number of races per day. The average number of races per day was 8.21 as compared to 8.91 races in 2013, representing a 7.9% decline. The total number of races in 2014 was 657 compared to 722 in 2013, a 9% decline. Average handle per race was $156,521 in 2014 and $159,490 in 2013, reflecting a decline of 1.9%. The average starters per race in 2014 was 7.05 compared to 6.97 in 2013.
“Purse reductions due to the increased casino competition in the Mid-Atlantic region and the continued foal crop decrease have continued to make things challenging,” said Mooney. “Despite those challenges, we had a very exciting meet in 2014 and we have much to look forward to next year. The combined handle on the Delaware Handicap and Delaware Oaks cards improved dramatically and there were significant memorable moments on the track, as well. We will continue to explore every option to strengthen our racing product in the current environment.”
The combined handle on the Delaware Handicap and Delaware Oaks cards was $6,452,595 as compared to $3,439,604 last season, reflecting an increase of over 85 percent. Some noteworthy on-the-track moments include Hardest Core using the Cape Henlopen Stakes on July 12, as a prep before winning the Grade I Arlington Million, Fortune Pearl and Joint Return finishing first and second in the Grade II Delaware Oaks, and Coup de Grace using the Oh Say Stakes on July 5, as a prep before winning the Grade II Amsterdam at Saratoga.