Peter M. Brant’s Dunbar Road tops the 83rd renewal of the $400,000 Grade II Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park this Saturday. The filly and mare summer classic has attracted a field of eight. This is the first time the race will be run at a mile-and-an-eighth. The race had been contested at mile-and-a-quarter and prior to 1951 at a mile-and-a-sixteenth.
In her only outing this year, Dunbar Road, 6-5 on the morning line, posted a 1 ¾-length victory in the mile and a sixteenth $100,000 Shawnee Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 23. Last year, the 4-year-old trained by Chad Brown won the Grade 2 Mother Goose at Belmont Park and the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga before running third in the Grade 1 Spinster at Keeneland. The daughter of Quality Road closed her 2019 campaign by finishing fifth in the Grade 1 Breeder’s’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita. She has career record of five wins, a second and a third from eight starts with earnings $758,040.
The morning-line odds second choice is Mathis Stable, Madaket Stables and Doheny Racing Stable’s Bellera (7-2). The 4-year-old trained by Todd Pletcher has a career record of four wins, two seconds and a third from nine starts with earnings of $275,560. In her most recent, the daughter of Bernardini finished seventh in the $100,000 Ginger Punch over the Gulfstream Park grass on June 6. Previously, she ran third in the seven furlong $100,000 Musical Romance at Gulfstream Park on May 16. In her only other outing this year, she won the mile and an eighth $100,000 Ladies Handicap at Aqueduct on January 19. Last year, she posted three wins and two seconds from six starts including a score in Grade III Comely Stakes. She has a career record of four wins, two seconds and a third from nine starts with earnings of $275,560.
“We like the mile and an eighth around two turns for her,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “She’s shown that is what she likes. We’re happy to get her back to what she’s best suited for.”
Pletcher has also entered Repole Stable’s Always Shopping (5-1). In her most recent, the 4-year-old daughter of Awesome Again finished fourth going a mile and an eighth on the grass in the Treasure Coast Stakes at Gulfstream Park on June 7. In her only other outing this year, the Kentucky-bred ran third in a one-mile allowance at Gulfstream Park on April 18. Last year, she won a pair of stakes at Aqueduct, including the Grade 2 Gazelle Stakes, before completing her 3-year-old campaign by running sixth in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico. She has a career record of two wins, two seconds and a third from eight starts with earnings of $261,840.
Pletcher is seeking his fifth Delaware Handicap victory, which would set the record for most wins by a trainer in the race. Pletcher won his first Delaware Handicap in 2001 with Irving’s Baby; he followed with back-to-back victories with Fleet Indian in 2006 and Unbridled Belle in 2007, and his most recent was with Life at Ten in 2010. He is currently tied with Henry Clark, who won the race in in 1958 and 1959 with Endine and in 1969 and 1970 with Obeah.
The mare who is starting to get good at the right time is Ten Strike Racing’s Lucky Move (8-1). In her most recent, the daughter of Lookin at Lucky posted her first career stakes by notching a 1 ¼-length score in the mile and a sixteenth $100,000 Obeah Stakes at Delaware Park on June 17. Sent off at 42-1 that day, Lucky Move rallied from seventh under Roberto Rosado, who has the return mount.
Previously, the New York-bred conditioned by Juan Carlos Guerrero ran third and fourth in a pair of Aqueduct New York state-bred allowances. In her only other outing this year, she finished second to Bellera in the Ladies Handicap. She has a career record of five wins, seven seconds and four thirds from 27 starts.
“She has been getting bigger and stronger,” said trainer Juan Carlos Guerrero. “We knew she was a bit of a longshot going into the Obeah, but she looked like a million dollars and when you watched her train, she stood apart from everybody in the way she was doing it. I really liked her chances in the Obeah, but I was not expecting that big of an effort. Since the Obeah, she has been doing great. We worked her the other day and she went so easy, I was afraid she went faster than we wanted (she breezed five furlongs in :59 2/5 at Parx on July 3). But, the rider barely even asked her and she came out of it alert and bouncing. It was like she barely did anything. So, she really could not be doing any better and we are excited about Saturday.”