Delaware Park Handicappers’ Notebook 2022 Vol. 6

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 29 – July 2

The turf course was utilized on all four racing days with five of the nine completed races being won by the horse who was on the lead at the first call; one race was declared no contest to protect a fallen rider. Since the lawn has played very kindly to early speed in four of the first six weeks of the meet (weeks 1, 2, 3 and 6), when horses from these races come back give a little extra credit to those that managed to run against the bias (see July 2 race below). Conversely, for the numerous wire-to-wire winners, you can slightly discount their performance especially if the first half pace was slow. This does not mean that all the closers are bet-backs and the speedsters are throwouts; It does mean you should consider the bias as you handicap.

June 29

  • Race 6: Witty easily defeated two lesser opponents in this Delaware Certified Stakes race coming off a complete throw out in the Grade 2 Penn Mile run on a boggy turf at Penn National. He had already demonstrated stakes-winning ability in the fall and winter, but physically looks even more imposing now. This horse has a huge upside.
  • Race 7: Although it is not reflected in the chart, Nathan Detroit was in traffic and checked both in the first turn and in the backstretch before finishing third behind a wire-to-wire winner in a slow-paced turf race. Literally, as I was writing this paragraph on July 4, this horse came back on five days rest and won at Laurel. This is a prime example of how watching replays in addition to reviewing charts provides a huge benefit to your handicapping.
  • Race 8: Horses are entered in $5,000 maiden claiming races for many negative reasons, but this contest at that level was made up of a very slow field. It would be hard to play any of these, including winner Qt Bliegh, in their next starts.

July 2

  • Race 3: Fits the Jill was in the back or mid-pack for most of this tough maiden special weight run on a turf course favoring early speed. She also ran wide on the turn before finishing third to a horse who got a dream stalking trip on the rail. If the horse stays at this level or drops slightly, she should be able to graduate next out.

Jockey and Trainer of the Week

Two jockeys share the honors this week and they are reflective of the spectrum of racing. Eric Cancel, a well known jock on the NYRA circuit, rode two races here Saturday, the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks and Grade 3 Kent. He won them both with low-odds horses. Apprentice Yan Aviles won the final two races on Thursday’s card. Yan is not yet well known and does not get to ride many low-odds horses in big races. The winning horses paid $50 and $46.20. Yan only had four mounts all week, but he certainly made the most of them.

Trainer Brittany Russell has a small string at Delaware Park that has performed consistently well all meet. For the week she had a win, place and show from just four starters, with the win coming in the Alapocas Run Stakes with Whereshetoldmetogo. For the year she is tied for third in the trainer win standings, and her horses have finished in the money an incredible 16 times out of 19 starters at the meet.

Handicappers’ Toolbox

As a handicapper I believe that there are exceptions to virtually every racing maxim. For the next few weeks I will be commenting on a number of these maxims and give my opinion as to their validity.

Racing maxim: Don’t bet three year-olds against older before Labor Day. I follow this rule about 75% of the time. I typically only violate it when dealing with 3 year-olds that have a very clear advantage in class or speed figures. When horses are evenly matched especially in mid-level races, it is wise in my opinion to use the age factor as a tie-breaker in favor of the older horse.

Racing maxim: Don’t bet horses coming off of a layoff of 60 days or more. I frequently violate this rule. To me trainer intent and past performances are much more crucial in handicapping than adherence to this rule. The rule is even less meaningful in turf races, in particular with high class horses.