Elate strong favorite to repeat in Delaware Handicap
Elate won the 2018 Delaware Handicap. Photo by Allison Janezic.
The defending champion, Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Elate, tops the 82nd renewal of the $750,000 Grade 2 Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park this Saturday. The mile-and-a-quarter filly and mare summer classic has attracted a field of nine.
The 5-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, 7-5 on the morning line, has a record of a win, a second and a third from 3 starts in 2019. In her most recent the Kentucky-bred trained by Bill Mott notched a 1 ½-length triumph in the mile-and-an-eighth, Grade 2 Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs on June 15. Her other two outings this year were both going 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn Park where she ran second in the Grade 2 Azeri Stakes on March 16 and then third in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap on April 14.
Last year, Elate made only two starts. She won the Delaware Handicap by 3 ¼-lengths, and she followed by running second in the Grade I Personal Ensign at Saratoga. She has a career record of six wins, five seconds and two thirds from 15 starts with earnings of $1,698,775.
“She is doing very well,” Mott said. “She won the Fleur de Lis and ran a great race. She finished well, made the lead inside the eighth pole, and was drawing away at the end. It was a very useful race and it seemed like the nine furlongs seemed to suit her much better than the previous two-times at a mile and a sixteenth. We are certainly looking forward to running her back in the Delaware Handicap at ten furlongs.”
Mott has won the Delaware Handicap three times, last year with Elate and twice with Royal Delta, in 2012 and 2013. A victory by Elate would be his fourth Delaware Handicap, which would equal the record for most by trainer held by Henry Clark and Todd Pletcher. Clark won the Delaware Handicap with Endine in 1958 and 1959 and Obeah in 1969 and 1970.
“I think anytime you can run in a race like this and keep winning them, it is a good thing,” Mott said. “We just try to stay competitive every time we come to Delaware, and it is nice to be keeping such good company.”
Pletcher; who won the Delaware Handicap with Irving’s Baby in 2001, Fleet Indian in 2006, Unbridled Belle in 2007, and Life At Ten in 2010; would break the record if Madaket Stables, Elayne Stables and Brian Martin’s Another Broad can pull off an upset victory. She is 10-1 on the morning line.
In her most recent, the 4-year-old daughter of Include finished third in the 1 1/8-mile $100,000 Obeah Stakes at Delaware Park on June 15. Previously, the Maryland-bred finished fourth in the Grade III Allaire duPont Distaff at Pimlico on May 17. Her last win came on April 13, when she posted a 1 ¼-length ,score in the $200,000 Top Flight Invitational at Aqueduct. She has a career record of four wins, two seconds and a third from 11 starts with earnings of $242,095.
The morning-line odds second choice is Merriebelle Stable’s Blue Prize. The Argentina-bred conditioned by Ignacio Correas IV has a career record of seven wins, eight seconds and two thirds from 19 starts with earnings of $1,162,253. In her most recent, the daughter of Pure Prize finished second to Elate in the Grade II Fleur de Lis on June 15. On May 3, she ran third in the Grade I La Troiene at Churchill Downs. Last year, she posted four wins including a Grade I score in the Spinster at Keeneland.
“She is doing very well,” said Correas. “We have been planning on running her in the Delaware Handicap since the beginning of the year. She is tough. She does not mind travelling, she loves to race, she is very adaptable and I think she is going to love the mile-and-a-quarter.”
The third choice in the morning-line odds is Don Schnell, Barry Arnason and True North’s Escape Clause. The 5-year-old daughter of Going Commando has won a remarkable 20 of 32 career starts wth earnings of $691,500. While she has done much of her runnning close to home, the Manitoba-bred trained by Don Schnell won the Grade 3 La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita Park in January and had perhaps her most notable effort when second — by a nose — to Midnight Bisou in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park in April. Last time out she finished fourth in another Grade 1 event, the Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park. Since, she has been training at Delaware Park.
“She is so much better now though after being at Delaware for more than a month, and I think she is going to run much better this Saturday,” Schnell said. “We have shipped to more than ten different racetracks, and while she has run well at all of them, I hope being here for a month in advance will finally give us a little bit of a home field advantage. It seems like she loves the track. She has had two works at Delaware Park and she worked very well both times.”
Others in the field include Obeah Stakes winner Gotham Gala (8-1) for trainer Arnaud Delacour; Maryland-bred Goodonehoney (10-1) for trainer Michael Moore; Promise of Spring (12-1) for trainer Steve Margolis; and longshots Queen Nekia and Vente to Go, both 20-1 on the morning line.
Six horses are two-time winners of the Delaware Handicap. They are Royal Delta (2012 & 2013), Nastique (1988 & 1989), Susan’s Girl (1973 & 1975), Blessing Angelica (1971 & 1972), Obeah (1969 & 1970) and Endine (1958 & 1959).