Delaware Park 2018 horses to watch: Winter Melody Stakes
by Frank Vespe
Bishop’s Pond has made four starts in 2018 at three different tracks, among them Laurel, Santa Anita (for the Grade 1 Santa Margarita), and Monmouth (for the Grade 3 Violet). Tequilita has made five starts this year, at five different tracks, including graded stakes tilts at Saratoga (Grade 1 Ballerina), Keeneland (Grade 1 Madison), and Belmont (Grade 2 Ruffian).
These two well-traveled distaffers are set to cross paths in this afternoon’s $50,000, 1 1/16 mile Winter Melody Stakes at Delaware Park. The Winter Melody, the final added-money event for females this year at Delaware, is race eight and has a post time of 4:45 p.m. It is the feature of a nine-race card, the finale for Arabians, which gets underway at 1:15.
#10 Bishop’s Pond (7-2), a six-year-old Curlin mare, has run 22 of her 27 career races on the turf. But she kicked off her 2018 season with a dominant victory in the Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes at Laurel Park, a one-turn mile event on the dirt that seemed to presage big things for the rest of her season. But the speedster, trained by Jason Servis, hasn’t won since, a pair of third-place finishes her best results. Looking to recapture her winning ways, she’ll likely be in the vanguard early in this race and will have Trevor McCarthy in the irons.
#12 Tequilita (9-2), a four-year-old daughter of Union Rags trained by Michael Matz, has a pair of graded wins to her credit. She won the Grade 2 Forward Gal early in her sophomore season of 2017 and the Grade 3 Charles Town Oaks late in the season. But this year has been something of a struggle for her, a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Ruffian her only in-the-money showing of the year. Matz added blinkers for her last start, in the Grade 1 Ballerina, but she could do no better than sixth at 37-1 odds. In her lone two-turn try this year, in the $100,000 Obeah Stakes over the Delaware strip, she backed out after racing up close and ended up a well-beaten fourth. Victor Carrasco has the mount.
A locally based runner, #6 Angel At War (5-1) has been knocking on the door of a stakes win for most of the season. The Michael Gorham trainee, a four-year-old Shackleford filly, has been second or third in three different stakes this year and in a fourth added-money test was fourth but beaten less than two lengths. She has made two two-turn tries this year, but they were at Charles Town (in the seven-furlong, $100,000 Dance to Bristol) and Timonium (in the 6 1/2-furlong, $75,000 Timonium Distaff), making this her route debut. She owns five wins over the strip and, though she’s shown the ability to run well from on or off the lead, you’d have to imagine she’ll be right in the thick of the early running at a route distance. Sheldon Russell will ride her for the third consecutive time.
#8 Hey Niki (12-1) hasn’t done much wrong in her brief career. The sophomore Include filly has won three of four starts, and last out, in her first two-turn try, she dusted Laurel Park allowance foes. Trainer Tom Proctor likely would have preferred a somewhat easier spot for his runner’s stakes bow, but beyond that, all systems look to be go. Jorge Vargas, Jr. will ride.
Rounding out the field are Ready to Confess (8-1), making her first start for trainer Graham Motion after having been in Donnie Von Hemel’s barn; recent Laurel allowance winner Enthrall (12-1) for Chuckie Lawrence; and 2017 Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks runner-up Sine Wave (6-1), making just her second start of the year for Ben Perkins, Jr. Five horses were scratched.
Arabian handicapping is provided by our friends at Arabian Finish Line.
This allowance/optional claiming event features the return of Uptown Flying Flynn, a graded stakes winner at the beginning of the year, who has been off since finishing tenth in a grade 1 race at Sam Houston. He is a classy runner who, if ready, should run well. RB Hocus Pocus, who last raced in a grade 1 at Churchill Downs, is back at a shorter distance and against softer company. He could be back among the top three. The older mare Pams Masquerade is a tough competitor and could get part of the purse.