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Miss Marissa
Miss Marissa proved best in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap. Photo by Allison Janezic.

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.

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Notable races and trips

August 4-9

Speed on the turf continued to be the more preferred running style and the rail on the dirt continued to be problematic. Not sure why these biases have remained consistent for much of the meet but they have and you need to continue to factor that into your handicapping. More dramatically the August 5th card produced the best 2YO performance I have seen at Delaware in four years.


  • Race 2: There were two divisions drawn for two year old MSWs and this race appeared to be the tougher of the two groups. It included both a first timer for Michael Stidham and John Servis each of which had some backstretch steam and went off at the two lowest odds. The third choice Defend, trained by Cathal Lynch and ridden by Charlie Marquez was a visually impressive horse for owner Nick Sanna. The race was no contest as Defend grabbed the early lead and drew away from the field with long smooth strides. Word has it that there have been some offers already made for this horse. This horse was the most visually impressive 2YO that I have seen at Delaware since Whereshetoldmetogo who won on Belmont Day in 2017. If Defend can have as impressive a career as Whereshetoldmetogo that would be good but barring injury or setback it would not surprise me to see Defend try the Hopeful at Saratoga. Do not ignore this horse.
  • Race 9: A competitive mid-level claimer at 5 1/2 furlongs closed the card with 11 horses going to the post. Most were first time starters but the number 11 had one race under his belt at the same level. In that race he was 3.8 to 1 but got off slowly before making a middle move and fading. Maybe that running line scared some of the bettors or maybe it was the outside post that led to the 13 to 1 odds for this race. The horse was a definite overlay and won impressively proving that the bettors in the previous race had more correctly gauged this horses ability.
  • Thankful for the blue-collar horse
    Bemoan racing’s lack of high-end, sticking-around stars? No, thanks. Be thankful, instead, for the blue-collar horses that are the spine of the industry.


  • Race 7: The feature of the day was a tough Allowance on the turf that ultimately was won by an overwhelming favorite, The third choice Miami Crockett had a trip that the chart caller described as “tough”. That was an understatement because not only did the horse stumble at the start but he was also impeded two times in the race. The horse has nice turf figures and should be able to come back at this same level to run competitively.

Jockey and Trainer of the Week

Jockey Daniel Centeno won 6 of 13 races between Thursday and Saturday to solidify his 3rd place standing among jocks for the meet.

Besides the aforementioned win with Defend, Cathal Lynch also brought Winterthur into the winners circle. This horse was mentioned in a previous notebook as having run a little greenly in the stretch. He has now run both short and long on dirt and turf for a trainer who is good at solving puzzles. Lynch’s 10 wins for the meet ties him for 2nd in the trainer standings.

Handicappers’ Toolbox

As Parx is closed until later this month I suspect a number of horses will run at Delaware over the next two weeks whose previous race line will be from Parx. These types of horses performed well last year at Delaware during the Parx August closure and should been given a long look.