Delaware Park Handicappers’ Notebook 2022 Vol. 2
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
June 1 – June 4
This week the dirt course played very fair. Of the 16 winners, four led at the first call while two others were last. In what were largely short fields, all the other winners were second, third or fourth at the first call. The turf course rewarded horses with early speed. Of the eight winners, four had the lead at the first call and two others were in the second and third spots.
- Off the Pace: Catching up with Eric PignataroIn a new “Off the Pace”: Mike Valiante catches up with Eric Pignataro, former jai alai player-turned-jockeys’ agent plying his trade at Delaware Park.
- Race 1: Mi Yayis was unruly in the paddock and while loading. She almost threw the jockey at the break before running headstrong down the backstretch. She then got parked wide on the turn before being beaten by a low-price winner. Can win at the $12,500 – $16,000 claiming level with any kind of better trip.
- Race 8: The word was out on Sansa Ariel in the first race of the year for two-year-olds. She was bet steadily as soon as wagering opened and went off at 9-5 before looking very impressive and winning by over seven lengths despite slightly drifting in the stretch. This Cal Lynch trainee by Sky Mesa has good potential and should improve as the year continues.
- Race 6: No Sabe Nada was a horse we touted in a 2021 Notebook article. His trainer, Scott Peck, has spoken repeatedly about the heart this horse displays. In his seasonal debut he battled very gamely down the stretch to beat the favorite. If properly spotted this horse should once again be a player on the local scene this season.
- Race 4: The bad trip of the day award went to Style. She broke bad, dropped to last and had to go wide before losing only to a logical favorite. Can win at mid-level claiming ranks or potentially at this first allowance level with a better trip.
Jockey and Trainer of the Week
Jockey Daniel Centeno had quite a winter in Tampa. Not only did he bring home 42 winners, but he also welcomed a new daughter into the world. This week at Delaware he had three winners in eight starts. For the meet he now has five winners with just 16 starters for a 31% strike rate.
On Saturday trainer Jonathan Thomas saddled Be Here to victory in an allowance/optional claimer to run his training record to 3-for-3 so far in the meet. Given the high-end owners who employ Thomas — Be Here is a homebred for George Strawbridge’s Augustin Stabe — you can bet that he will have a high percentage of winners throughout the meet. The iconic green-and-white silks of Augustin have long been a staple, not just at Delaware but throughout US racing, under the ownership of George Strawbridge and his now retired trainer Jonathan Sheppard.
- Monmouth, BetMakers to offer $1 million “bonanza bonus”Monmouth Park and BetMakers will offer a $1 million bonus to the connections of a horse sweeping the Haskell, Travers, and Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Delaware Park will be running a card on Friday, June 10. This will be the first of 16 weeks where the track will run four days a week. So far this meet only eight races have been carded daily. Even so, the dirt fields have had a small number of entries and the addition of a fourth day may exacerbate this problem. As a handicapper, short fields can cripple your chances to make a profit. One tactic to overcome that challenge is to play doubles. Doubles often outperform the price you would get in a two-race parlay largely because you only have to offset one takeout. There obviously is no value in playing favorites in both halves of a double, so look for a race or preferably a pair of races with vulnerable favorites. By skipping some of the short field single races, you can save capital and increase your units bet in the double races where you can find value.