Delaware Park set for 2022 opening

The 85th season of live horse racing at historic Delaware Park opens Wednesday, May 25, with a first race post time of 12:30 p.m. The opening week festivities will continue with live racing cards slated for Thursday, May 26 and Saturday, May 28.

Nine-time defending leading trainer Jamie Ness will return for his twelfth season. The native of Heron, South Dakota, will be seeking his eighth consecutive title, which would break the record set by Delaware Park legend and Hall of Famer Grover “Buddy” Delp from 1963 through 1969 and equaled by Scott Lake from 2002 through 2008.

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After finishing fourth in the trainer standings last season, former leading New York conditioner Gary Contessa will be back for his second full meet. Contessa came out of retirement to become the private trainer for the locally-based Bell Gable Stable, owned by Nick and Delora Beaver, who won the 2021 title as leading owner.

“I have always loved Delaware Park,” said Contessa. “Delaware Park has always been one of my favorite places even when I was one of the leading trainers in New York. This place has a country atmosphere and the people are so nice, so I have always enjoyed coming here and I also have had a lot of success here over the years.”

The Beavers will also look to defend their owner title, and according to Contessa, they’ll be bringing in a strong group.

“After retiring in March of 2020, I met with Nick at a sale, one thing led to another and we came to an agreement for me to train privately for Bell Gable Stable,” Contessa said. “I came into the meet last year looking down my shed row not knowing what to think, and we wound up winning the leading owner title. We really scraped and scrapped to get to that point. I really enjoyed being here last year and I really enjoyed helping them win the leading owner title. Plus, we won two stake races, and they had never won a stake race before, so everything was incredibly positive. This year, we are back with more 2-year-olds. We have an equal split between 2-year-olds and older horses, but we have more 2-year-olds this season than last, so in the beginning of the meet, I might not be as active because with 2-year-olds it is a little bit of a waiting game. I got a couple who are showing me some pretty good signs. I think we are going to win some races, but it is just going to be a matter of when we get there.”

Other trainers who will be stabled at Delaware Park include Cathal Lynch, Juan Arriagada, Gary Capuano, Andy Simoff, Anthony Pecoraro, Mike Gorham, Jane Cibelli, Lynn Ashby, Baltazar Galvan, Scott Lake, Michael Stidham, Tim Ritchey, Ben Perkins Jr., Kelly Rubley, H. Graham Motion, Greg Compton, Brittany Russell, Victor Carrasco Jr., Chelsey Moysey, Edward T. Allard, Sam Cronk, John Robb and Arnaud Delacour.

Among jockeys Jaime Rodriguez, the defending leading jockey and regular rider for trainer Jamie Ness; Carol Cedeno, the former six-time defending leading jockey and second in the standings last season; and Daniel Centeno, who won the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap aboard Miss Marissa and finished third in the standings last year, are all set to return. 

“I have the same approach to this season as I have had every other season which is to keep fit, work hard every day and to be ready to go for my trainers,” said Carol Cedeno who was the leading rider at Delaware Park from 2014 through 2016 and 2018 through 2020. “Was I disappointed not to win the title last season? Yes, I certainly was because Delaware is my home and I am proud of everything I have accomplished here. But we still had a great meet and the hard work and dedication was rewarded. Jaime (Rodriguez) had a fantastic meet and I tip my hat to him. I am not sure where I will be in the standings at the end of this season but I am sure this is going to be an exciting season and I am going to continue to work hard, be committed and take it one day at a time.”

Rodriguez, Cedeno and Centeno will be joined by Angel Suarez, Raul Mena, Skyler Spanabel, Roberto Alvarado Jr., Aubrie Green and John Hiraldo.

Live racing will be conducted on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Friday will be added June 10th through July 8 and August 26 through November 4. The Grade III Delaware Oaks is scheduled for Saturday, July 2 and the Grade II Delaware Handicap will be run on Saturday, July 9. The 30th Owners Day will be on Saturday, October 1. The 88-day meet is scheduled to conclude on Breeders’ Cup Saturday, November 5.