American Sailor
Xavier Perez. Photo Mike Valiante.

Correspondent Mike Valiante shares his weekly Delaware Park Handicappers’ Notebook, featuring horses to watch, bet-backs, and more.

Each week he’ll give you the skinny on how the races are unfolding, which horses overcame the bias (or profited from it), and who had troubled trips. Plus, he’ll provide trainer and jockey of the week picks, and much more.

Notable races and trips


  • Race 1: A race that illustrated not all open claiming races with the same claiming price are created equal. This open $12,500 claiming race only had six entrants, but their average lifetime earnings exceeded $168,000 and each had showed in the past that they were quite capable of meeting or exceeding the Beyer par for this level. Look for good things from the top four finishers from this race – Colour Guard, John’s Promise, True Boldness, and Storming My Way — if they return at an equal or lower level. In particular, pay attention to the top pair, who were separated by a nose while well clear of the rest.
  • Race 5: Vicarage, the 4-5 favorite, went to his knees at the start. Was last and wide in the first turn and trailed by over 7 lengths. Gained ground while being urged a little on the backstretch and then checked slightly heading into the final turn. Despite all of this, came wide on the turn and basically got even with the leader before flattening out down the stretch.


  • As noted in my previous column track biases typically do not last long at Delaware Park. By day six the rail was no longer the huge dead spot that it was over the first three days of the meet.
  • Both two-turn turf races — one a never-won-two claimer going a mile, the other a second-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles — were won by horses that led at every call. Spin Your Partner, the 6-5 favorite, took ’em all the way to win the former by a neck, while Sandy Lane Kitten led throughout to win the latter by a half-length at 5-1. Sandy Lane Kitten has now made four starts on the Delaware turf, winning three and finishing second in the other.

Jockey and Trainer of the Week

Congratulations to jockey Xavier Perez who recorded his 1,000th career victory on Monday.

Trainer Lynn Ashby swept the trifecta in the first Arabian race of the year on Saturday.

  • Last week’s top rider Jaime Rodriguez continued to hold the hot hand, winning two on June 5 and two more on June 7. His 12 wins are eight more than any other rider.
  • Last week’s leading trainer Jamie Ness also continued apace, winning with three of nine starters at Delaware June 5 and June 7.


The Obeah Stakes, which serves as a prep for the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap July 10, is being run on Wednesday June 9. The tough thing about handicapping prep races is that not all the horses will be at their tightest. This can lead to some surprises, like last year when Lucky Move won at 40-1.

Below is a summary of the pluses and/or minuses of the horses scheduled to run:

  • Crystal Ball: Ran in CCA Oaks and Alabama. Good current form and has room to improve.
  • Bajan Girl: Has faced the best female horses in the country.
  • Graceful Princess: Huge improvement in last. It is Pletcher, so not anticipating a bounce. Post #12 hinders.
  • Market Rumor: Good out-of-town connections and good current form. Morning line of 20-1 appears way too high.
  • Jilted Bride: Has not competed in a stakes race, but it is Asmussen and hot local jock Rodriguez. Consistent horse that had been running at the tough Oaklawn meet.
  • Dream Marie: On 2020 form is a contender. Last two races raise many questions.
  • Miss Marissa: Five-month layoff but once she gets her prep, last year’s G2 Black-Eyed Susan winner will be tougher.
  • Shyza: Good trainer and jock combo but has not run in six months when she got buried in a minor stake.
  • Artful Splatter: Loves the slop. On dry track appears outclassed.
  • Trolley Ride: Nice last race at Penn National but that was in the slop against a small field. Beyer numbers don’t match up against these.
  • Promised Storm: Consistent horse who loves the distance. On paper appears much too slow for this group.
  • Queen Nekia and Sweet Sami D and Lucky Stride: All three just ran last weekend and are expected to scratch.