Delaware Park Handicappers’ Notebook 2022 Vol. 3

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 8 – June 11

Early speed continued to be beneficial on the turf. In the five grass races run, three of the leaders at the first call won, one leader placed and the other finished in third. Last year the turf course favored early speed most of the meet, so until this trend changes make sure you factor this into your handicapping.

Conversely the dirt course provided an example of how biases can also be fleeting. Early in the week the track played fair. The, from mid-day Friday to the middle of the card on Saturday, eight out of nine consecutive races were won by the horse who was leading at the first call. Following some hard showers on Saturday, the final three races on the card were captured by stalkers.

Before highlighting a few trips from the past week there is a notable followup to race 8 on the card from June 2. The winner of this $10,000 claimer was the favorite, Tiz Herself. Following the race she was dismounted on the turn and was vanned off. The agent for jockey Daniel Centeno told me that the horse was reacting to the saddle that was pinching her and a post race follow up found no major injury.

  • 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.

June 8

  • Race 4: Defend was a horse noted in last year’s notebook as providing the best first performance by a two-year-old at Delaware Park in quite some time. The son of American Freedom came back on Wednesday after a seven-month layoff to defeat older horses easily. He is now three-for-three at Delaware; his only career loss came in the Hopeful at Saratoga. Projects as a stakes winner for trainer Cal Lynch before the year is out.

June 9

  • Race 3: La Samana Laura came into this $40,000 maiden special weight race off of a layoff of over six months. Would most likely would have won if she had not broken badly and then floated wide at the top of the stretch. She should break her maiden in short order.

June 11

  • Race 5: Stacks of Silver repelled multiple challengers while winning wire to wire. Even making allowances that the track was favoring speed, this horse showed a lot of heart and has the look of a consistent in-the-money hard knocker.

Jockey and Trainer of the Week

Jockey Carol Cedeno rode four winners in 20 races this week. She has always been a strong finisher and her one-for-sixteen record on the turf to date is more of a reflection of the dominance of rival Jaime Rodriguez and not being on horses with early kick that can take advantage of the aforementioned speed bias on the grass. Honorable mention to Jorge Ruiz, who went three-for-three.

Trainer Cal Lynch went five-for-five this week. For the meet he has seven wins from just 13 starters and over $148,000 in purse earnings. Both marks lead all trainers in the first three weeks of the meet. He has also run three budding stars at the meet, Defend (see above) American Patrol, and Sansa Ariel.

Handicappers’ Toolbox

I have never been a fan of betting both win and place, but for those who want to hedge their bets, I know of a number of bettors who will play both win and place if their choice is 9-2 or higher and they think the favorite is vulnerable. If both conditions are met, and you are a reasonably successful handicapper, this is an acceptable way to hedge. It is also a valid strategy for the casual $2 bettor who may only attend the races a few times a year and wants to enjoy a lunch and hopes to go to the window. Over the long haul as you become a better handicapper, I would suggest only playing horses to win in your non-exotic bets.