Digging into the Obeah Stakes

Trainers Rob Atras and Claudio Gonzalez certainly agree on one thing: they’ll have to give the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap a serious look if their charges run well in this afternoon’s $150,000 Obeah Stakes at Delaware Park.

The Obeah serves as the local prep for the DelCap, which is slated to be run July 9.

Atras trains Obeah morning line favorite Battle Bling (3-2), while Gonzalez conditions Miss Leslie (8-5), and there’s a serious likelihood those two will decide the outcome of this contest.

As it happens, Miss Leslie and Battle Bling have met once previously. That came the Ladies at Aqueduct Jan. 16, and Battle Bling bested her rival by a neck in the nine-furlong affair.

Battle Bling’s recent BRIS speed figs are better than Miss Leslie’s, and she arrives off a more-than-respectable fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 La Troienne on the Kentucky Oaks undercard. No shame in losing to Pauline’s Pearl and Shedaresthedevil. She’s done nothing but run good races since Atras claimed her for $62,500 last December.

Kendrick Carmouche is in for just this mount – certainly a strong endorsement.

But two factors argue in Miss Leslie’s favor here. Her connections aren’t sure how much she liked the deep Aqueduct surface, while past evidence indicates she likes Delaware just fine; Miss Leslie absolutely destroyed a good allowance field here last year.

And second is the distance. Miss Leslie is five-for-seven at this 1 1/16-mile trip, while Battle Bling is just one-for-six and arguably has done her best work at nine furlongs – the distance of the Ladies.

Regular pilot Angel Cruz will ride. Miss Leslie is four-for-seven under him.

Looking to upset both of them is the Jane Cibelli-trained Flight to Shanghai (5-1). The speedy Flight to Shanghai is one of three horses here who competed in Monmouth Park’s Serena’s Song last out, and while she was able to turn back the bid of Moma Tiger (8-1) mid-race, she had no answers at all for Miss Leslie, who went on to win by over four lengths.

Flight to Shanghai’s best chance will be to grab the early lead under jockey Victor Carrasco and take the field as far as she can. She owns a win in three tries at the distance, and she’s two-for-two at Delaware. She’s making her third start of the season here and has some better form to move back to.

The other three in the field – Moma Tiger, Hybrid Eclipse (8-1), and Pettigo Girl (12-1) – all would need to take a significant step forward to get the money in here.


  1. Miss Leslie: On a surface she’s liked at a distance she loves, she gets the nod.
  2. Flight to Shanghai: If speedster can get loose up front and return to best form, she has a chance to pull a fast one.
  3. Battle Bling: Might be the one of this group best suited to the DelCap 10-furlong distance.
  • Miss Leslie proved best in the Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes at Laurel Park. Photo Jim McCue.
  • Miss Leslie won the Weber City Miss. Photo by Allison Janezic.
  • Miss Leslie won the 2020 Anne Arundel County Stakes. Photo by Jerry Dzierwinski.