Miss Marissa
Miss Marissa held off Bonny South to win the 2020 Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes. Photo by Allison Janezic.

 Juddmonte’s Bonny South tops the 84th 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 seven. 

After being shortened to a mile and an eighth last year due to the pandemic, the race will return to the traditional distance of a mile and a quarter.  The Delaware Handicap has been carded as the ninth race with an approximate post time of 5:15 p.m.

This year, the 4-year-old daughter of Munnings is one-for-two.  In her first outing in 2021, the Kentucky-bred trained by Brad Cox notched a head victory in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Doubledogdare at Keeneland on April 16.  She followed by running second in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at the same distance at Belmont Park on June 5. 

Last year, she had a record of two wins and three seconds from six starts including a victory in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks and a trio of seconds in Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga, the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico and the Grade 2 Falls City at Churchill Downs.  She has a career record of four wins and four seconds from ten starts with earnings $692,150.

“She is doing well,” said trainer Brad Cox.  “She is a solid horse.  You never really have to make any excuses for her and hopefully with a good trip on Saturday, she will get the job done.  We have run her at Fair Grounds, Oaklawn, Pimlico, Keeneland, Saratoga, Belmont and obviously Churchill and she has run well at each time regardless of distance.  She is a just a consistent and solid filly.”

Bonny South will be arriving in Delaware towards the end of the week.

“She is going to ship to Monmouth,” Cox said.  “We are sending a little string to Monmouth and she will be part of that group.  From there, we are going to ship her to Delaware the day before or the day of the race, so she will be there Friday or Saturday.”

A solid effort in the Delaware Handicap will a punch a ticket for her to travel to upstate New York in August.

“If all goes well afterward, we will ship her to Saratoga and point for the Personal Ensign (August 28),” Cox said.

The Delaware Handicap will feature a rematch of last year’s Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico. In that contest, the James Ryerson-trained Miss Marissa took command on the backstretch and had just enough to hold off the late run of Bonny South.

Miss Marissa hasn’t won in three subsequent starts but has been second in each of her two 2021 outings. Last time out, she finished second in the Obeah Stakes, the local DelCap prep, to Dream Marie. Daniel Centeno has the mount.

Trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. has entered both eFive Racing Thoroughbreds Gibberish and Ken Copenhaver’s Queen Nekia.

It will be a homecoming for Queen Nekia as the 6-year-old daughter of Harlington will be returning to the track where she has a main track career record of five wins, two seconds and a third from ten starts.  The Florida-bred has not raced at Delaware Park since her Delaware Certified Horse of the Year campaign in 2019.

In her 2021 debut, she posted a 1 ¾-length score in the Grade 3 Royal Delta at Gulfstream Park on February 20.  Since then, she had a pair of fourth-place efforts in the Top Flight Invitational at Aqueduct on April 10 and the Grade I Ogden Phipps at Belmont on June 5.  She has a career record of ten wins, six seconds and seven thirds from 34 starts with earnings of $528,876.

“She has run well at Delaware in the past, so hopefully she will run well again on Saturday,” said Joseph.  “She was a proven solid filly before we claimed her back in December 2019 and she has gotten even better.  She has done more than we could have ever asked for.”

Gibberish has a career mark of four wins, a second and a third from 11 starts with earnings of $170,310.  In her most recent, the 4-year-old daughter of Lea ran second in the mile-and-a-sixteenth Lady’s Secret at Monmouth on June 6.

“Gibberish is also coming into the race well,” Joseph said. “She has won a stake, she beat Queen Nekia once and Queen Nekia beat her and she is coming off a good run at Monmouth.  We feel like the mile-and-a-quarter fits her nicely as well and are expecting a solid effort from her.”