Elate was much the best in the 2019 Delaware Handicap. Photo by Allison Janezic.

Delaware Park has an 8-race card on tap for this Thursday afternoon. Post time for the opener is 1:15 p.m., and we’ve got Delaware Park picks.

How’d we do last time at Delaware Park?

Race 33, 5, 7Really interesting three-other-than allowance sprinting on the grass… You can see how rain in the region has played havoc with grass horses this summer in the running line of the favorite, #9 A Great Time (5-2). The Mike Trombetta trainee hasn’t run since early July and is skipping a condition to show up here. That’s because Trombetta has scratched the six-year-old mare four times from races that have been taken off the turf. She certainly fits here on figs, but we’ll see if we can beat her with runners who’ve won a bit more… Trainer Jose Camejo will try to get #3 Wild About Star (5-1) back on the lawn, where she’s done her best work, including a win in The Very One S. May 2019 at Old Hilltop. Her grass follow-up was a disappointing fifth in the Incredible Revenge at MTH, but the winner that day, Goldwood, was in the midst of a five-stake win streak… Like Wild About Star, #5 Luvin Bullies (12-1) has run twice recently in off-the-turf contests; when last on the grass, she rallied into third in a stake at Canterbury; and she’s repeatedly shown she fits in this sort of company… Trainer McLean Robertson, who sends out Luvin Bullies, also has #7 Aiken to Be (4-1), This one hasn’t run since February, and Robertson has a record of 10-for-106 when bringing horses back off such long layoffs sprinting. This one’s better work is a good fit here.
Race 41, 5, 6, 7Off a good second last out in the Va-bred Hansel Stakes, #1 Merchant of Hope (8-5) is a deserving morning line choice here, but it’s of note that trainer Phil Schoenthal chooses to expose this one to being claimed rather than waiting for an allowance where he could protect the horse. Most likely, he’s just rolling the dice, but as a wagering matter, it makes you want to look around a bit… This is the kind of condition that’s absolutely made for a horse like #5 Counter Claim (10-1). This one was completely left at the gate on debut, was far enough behind that she was out of the picture altogether, and then put in a long, sustained run to prevail. Now trainer Gregg Sacco gets a manageable spot and the ability to protect his horse. Give her the nod at a price…
Race 64The one to watch in here is #4 So Darn Hot (8-5). The George Weaver trainee was a $600,000 purchase as a two-year-old in training. A daughter of Ghostzapper, she is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Come Dancing, who added to her haul of graded events at the just-concluded Saratoga meet. This one was a mile the best in breaking her maiden, and both to run back from that race broke their maidens next out at Saratoga. This one finds a manageable spot here…
WAGERING…In the third, you’ve got a chance to get a price home, and in the fourth, if we’re right about Counter Claim, you might do some damage. So Darn Hot won’t do you much good from a wageiring perspective but should win if she’s right, perhaps serving as a free square in multi-race wagers.