Delaware Park Handicappers’ Notebook 2022 Vol. 1

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

May 25 – May 28

Both the dirt and turf surfaces played fair throughout the week. Stalking close to the pace early was the predominant winning move on the dirt, but that was more reflective of the ability and running style of the winners then any track bias. I spoke with jockey Angel Suarez and he told me that all the paths on the dirt were good with the exception of the inner rail which got a little heavy on Saturday after a mid-day /mid-card shower. Unlike last year where speed on the turf was paramount, the first two days indicated that you could come off the pace on the grass.

May 25

  • Race 6: Highlight this allowance race as a key race. The six-horse field was made up of horses who either had or could run in stakes. The winner, American Patrol (left), was noted in last year’s notebook as a horse with potential, especially as the distances get longer. Stretching out to a mile in this race set him up nicely and he won off of a stalking trip under confident handling by Charlie Marquez. It would seem logical to bring this horse back in a stake at an even longer distance so I would not be surprised if trainer Cal Lynch enters in the Battery Park Stakes scheduled to be run on July 9 at 1 1/16 miles.
  • 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.

May 26

  • Race 7: This maiden special weight on the turf at 1 mile and 70 yards produced two notable, but very divergent trips. Mackenzie’s Novva, who was the second longest shot on the board at over 40-1, led at the first quarter and battled for the lead the entire race before finishing third. The other three horses who were in contention after the first quarter finished last, next to last and ninth respectively. One of the strengths jockey Aubrie Green showed last year at Delaware and during the winter at Fair Grounds was the ability to keep horses going on the lead. Watch for this horse if he comes back in maiden claiming company or gets an easier run of it up front. Also in this race, the rail horse Curteis closed from dead last in the backstretch to finish 4th despite having to go very wide around the far turn. Although some of this gain can be attributed to the front runners fading in the lane, this dead closer shows more turf than dirt ability and against a cheaper field on the lawn with a pace to chase could be worth a look next time out.

Jockey and Trainer of the Week

Jockey Jaime Rodriguez had 10 placings out of 15 starters, including four winners consecutively on the turf over the first two days of the meet. Before the year began, I asked his agent, John Weilbacher, what his client could improve on after capturing the jockey title last year and having a strong winter campaign in Maryland. John said that Rodriguez was still improving on the turf, especially since he began his career at Finger Lakes, which does not have a turf course. If the early start is any indication, that task is coming along nicely.

Trainer Gary Contessa had five placings from eight starters. He is In his second season working exclusively for last years leading owners, Bell Gable Stables. In speaking to the stable owners, Nick and Delora Beaver, I learned they plan on running even more horses this year. Their horses are usually competitive and generally don’t use races as workouts, so be advised.

Handicappers’ Toolbox

Until the Delaware runners come back for their second race of the meet, you should be mindful of the following: During the first three days of the meet Parx shippers had three winners from 13 entries (23%). Pimlico shippers were two for seven (29%) with Laurel horses nine for 59 (15%). That gave Maryland runners a combined 11 for 66 record (17%). Tampa shippers performed poorly, 2-for-24 (8%) as did Charles Town entries at 1-for-11 (9%). None of the 13 entries whose previous race was at Delaware last year were victorious.