Miss Leslie tabbed as Delaware Handicap favorite

Four-year-old Miss Leslie has racked up nearly $600,000 in earnings in her career. What she hasn’t done – yet – is win a graded stake.

The Paynter filly will try to fill that gap in her resume Saturday in the 85th running of the Grade 2, $500,000 Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park. The race is 1 ¼ miles on the main track and is carded as the seventh on an eight-race card.

“She is coming into the race really good,” said trainer Claudio Gonzalez.  “She came back in great shape after the Obeah Stakes. The longer the race, the better it is for her.”

Last time out, Miss Leslie, now two-for-two over the Delaware strip, was up late to prevail by a half-length in the $150,000 Obeah Stakes, the local prep for the DelCap. It was Miss Leslie’s second consecutive stakes win and sixth stakes triumph overall. She has nine career victories.

Since the Obeah Stakes was inaugurated in 1996, three fillies or mares have won the race and followed with a victory in the Delaware Handicap. They were the 2006 older female champion Fleet Indian, I’m a Chatterbox, who won the race in 2016, and Miss Marissa, who won last year. Miss Marissa was actually second past the post in last year’s Obeah but elevated to first after Dream Marie was disqualified on a medication violation.

In her prior visit to Delaware, Miss Leslie had won a three-other-than allowance in October 2021.

“We feel good that she likes the track,” Gonzalez said. “She won the Obeah and last year, she won a nice allowance at Delaware. She seems like she is getting better with each start, she should like distance and she likes the track, so we are looking forward to this Saturday.”

Miss Leslie began her career, as a two-year-old, in the maiden claiming ranks, and Gonzalez grabbed her on behalf of owners BB Horses for $25,000 out of her third start, which was her first victory. Two races later, she earned her first stakes win in the Anne Arundel County at Laurel Park.

Miss Leslie has done her best work around two turns, which may be an argument to toss her one off-color recent race. She finished eighth three starts back going a one-turn mile at Laurel in the Heavenly Cause. But she’s bounced back nicely since and recorded a solid four-furlong move in 48 3/5 seconds at her Laurel base July 2. That was the sixth-fastest of 55 at the distance.

“The older she gets the better she gets,” Gonzalez said. “She has become so much more mature this year, which is reason she has been getting better with each race.”

Miss Leslie will carry the high weight of 121 pounds, including regular pilot Angel Cruz. She’s giving as many as nine pounds to her rivals.

Miss Leslie is the 2-1 morning line favorite.

Miss Leslie’s narrow win in the Obeah came at the expensive of the Rob Atras-trained Battle Bling, who is 3-1 on the DelCap morning line and will carry 117 pounds with Kendrick Carmouche in the irons. Battle Bling had defeated Miss Leslie by a diminishing neck in the Ladies at Aqueduct Jan. 16 but could not hold off that rival last out in the Obeah.

The four-year-old Battle Bling has just three wins from 17 career starts but has earned over $315,000.

The field includes one graded stakes winner. That’s Bees and Honey (6-1), trained by Shug McGaughey for Gainesway Stable and Andrew Rosen.

Bees and Honey won the Grade 3 Comely at Aqueduct last fall to conclude her three-year-old season. But she’s finished fifth and sixth in two starts thus far in 2022, last out finishing three lengths behind Microcap, who’s also here for trainer Grant Forster.

Umberto Rispoli will ride Bees and Honey.

Let’s Cruise (8-1), Onyx (10-1), and Tonal Vision (8-1) round out the field.

  • Miss Leslie won the Obeah Stakes. Photo HoofprintsInc.com.
  • 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.