Delaware Handicap: The other guys… err, gals
by Frank Vespe
You might get the impression that Songbird is the only horse running in Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Delaware Handicap. After all, the two-time Eclipse winner is 1-5 on the morning line and might even go down from there by post time.
But as it happens, there are five runners scheduled to take on the champ. Call ’em The Other Guys. Or is it gals? Anyway.
The most likely of the other guys is Ashbrook Farm’s Weep No More, 6-1 on the morning line. The four-year-old Mineshaft filly won last year’s Grade 1 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, rallying from last to post a 30-1 upset. That was her third straight victory. But she has not finished in the money in her five subsequent starts.
In her most recent effort, George Arnold trainee finished sixth in the mile and an eighth $200,000 Grade II Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs. Previously, the Kentucky-bred finished fifth in the mile and a sixteenth $100,000 Grade III Matron Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 20.
“She is doing really well,” said trainer George Arnold II. “We were hoping that her last race would have been a little bit better, but it was only her second race of the year and she had a few issues down the lane. We really like the mile and a quarter for her. We like everything about the race, except that Songbird is in the race.”
Although he knows his filly faces a tall order, locally-based trainer Keith Nations is excited to give Martini Glass (8-1) an opportunity to face the best filly in the country in a Grade I race at her home track.
“My filly is doing great and she is just getting better and better,” said trainer Keith Nations. “We are just excited to be in a race like this, not only with a horse I train, but one we own a part of. Realistically, if we could just get a part of it, it would be a really big deal for us. You know I had Songbird in my barn last year at Parx for the Cotillion and she is an extremely impressive filly. A while ago, Jerry (Hollendorfer) and I were stabled right next to each other at Golden Gate. He is an incredible horsemen and his record speaks for itself. Just to be in this race, is a big deal for us.”
In her last outing, the 4-year-old daughter Kitalpha finished second beaten a neck in mile and an eighth $100,000 Obeah Stakes at Delaware Park on June 10. That snapped a three-race win streak for Martini Glass. Overall, she has won has seven of 14 career starts and earned more than $115,000.
“She ran a very good race, but she got beat by a very game older mare,” Nations said. “At first we were a little disappointed, when I realized we lost to a very nice mare, I knew our filly ran a great race and she got a really good number, so we were happy with it. She has worked really good the last couple of breezes leading up to this race and Jose Ferrer, who has been her jock for the last two races, says she is the best she has ever been.”
The field also includes three other runners.
Trainer Kieron Magee is scheduled to send out Line of Best Fit (12-1), a seven-year-old Ontario-bred Trajectory mare. Since being transferred into Magee’s barn in the spring of 2016, the 15-time winner has recorded five wins in six starts, including two straight. Last out, she won a $50,000 allowance contest going one mile at Laurel Park.
Two other runners are lined at 15-1. Miss Mo Kelly, trained by Kellyn Gorder, earned the best result of her career when she took the $100,000 She’s All In Handicap going one mile 70 yards at Remington Park. Meet leader Carol Cedeno will ride. And Victoria Oliver will send out Hone In, a five-year-old Smart Strike mare whose last win, in allowance company, came two back at Indiana Grand. Tyler Gaffalione is scheduled to ride.