Delaware Park Handicappers’ Notebook 2022 Vol. 4

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 15 – June 18

Turf racing took place on only two days, Wednesday and Saturday last week, because of some storms Wednesday evening. Maybe it was just a coincidence not related to the two-day hiatus, but Saturday, June 18 was the first day since opening week in which the turf races were not significantly favorable to early speed horses.

Throughout the week on the dirt, fields consisting of fewer than seven runners were the norm, which is not conducive to deep closers. That said, the track continued to play fair, and it was possible to stalk and get up to win.

  • 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 15

  • Race 3: If anyone tells you that handicapping is easy, refer them to this turf event. Peace Out only had three turf races in 15 previous starts. She was winless in her grass attempts, and unlike her dirt races, showed no early zip on the grass. As noted above, on June 15 the turf course was still playing against closers. In her previous turf race, a $40,000 Maryland-bred allowance tilt at five furlongs at Pimlico, she went off at odds of over 93-1. In that race she made a late move and finished seventh but within 5 lengths of the winner. Her morning line odds were 20-1 here, but she went off at 5-1. In addition to the relatively close finish in the previous race, bettors must have noted she was not offered for a claim in this allowance/optional claimer. At the first call she was next to last, and she was still sixth with a furlong to go, but she closed to win by a neck. I included this race in the column partly because she overcame a strong track bias and deserves a look next time out. More importantly this is a textbook example of a mixed-signals winner and why it is imperative that you look closely at the betting board, beaten lengths and trainer intent before casually dismissing any horse.

June 16

  • Race 4: It is not reflected in the chart but Midnight Trouble was unruly in the post parade, and jockey Carol Cedeno was tossed to the ground. Kudos to her for bravely remounting and extra points for this first-time runner who still ran credibly. He should be tougher second time out.

June 17

  • Race 4: Ridin with Biden was listed in the DRF and Equibase track program as a colt. It was not until the post parade that the ultimate equipment change, first time gelding, was announced. He was the logical favorite and won, so I am not implying any chicanery took place, but this information should be available to the public before any bets are placed.

June 18

  • Race 7: With PP’s that included some graded stakes races in England and the Graham Motion/Angel Suarez connections, I was surprised King Vega was not made the favorite in this first-level allowance. He won easily and the steam around the track was that this horse is good enough to defeat a higher class. I’m not so sure. This race had a Beyer par of 80. His best Timeform number in Europe would be equivalent to approximately 81 on the Beyer scale. If he steps up in class next time out, I will likely play against him.

Jockey and Trainer of the Week

In what is shaping up to be the feel-good story of the meet, Jeremy Rose continued his comeback last week by winning on four of his 12 mounts, For the meet he now has eight wins, which is good for fourth place in the jockey standings. There has been a lot of water under the bridge since his days of riding Afleet Alex. Some of that water has been rough, as he struggled with addiction issues. Here’s wishing the old pro smooth waters for the rest of his career.

On the training side another old pro, John Robb had two wins and one second-place finish from three entries. For the year he has four victories and three second place finishes in just nine entries. He is currently tied for 3rd in the trainer standings.

Handicappers’ Toolbox

I am often asked what is my favorite handicapping book for beginner handicappers. For me it Is How to Win Money at the Races by Nate Perimutter. It is out of print but you can obtain used copies on eBay. It is a fun and easy read and would make an excellent recommendation if you are trying to help friends and family learn the basics of handicapping. In addition there is a chapter of handicapping maxims that even experienced bettors could use. It is written in an old style and some of the info does not translate to the modern game, but overall it is a great book.