Delaware Park Handicappers’ Notebook 2022 Vol. 7

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

July 6 – July 9

There was only one race run on the turf all week. Key Biscayne won the Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial on a soft turf course with jockey Daniel Centeno closing down the stretch at odds of 36-1. The dirt course played to form all week with only five horses paying more than $10 in four days. On Friday, July 8 only one winner paid more than $6.00.

  • 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.

July 6

  • Race 5: Kinda Lucky took the lead despite being forced to race very wide on the first turn. She continued to hold the lead throughout the backstretch while being challenged and not being able to get to the rail. Eventually she was able to clear and drop to the rail entering the far turn. She then held the lead until the final 1/16 of this mile race before finishing a brave 2nd. Arguably would have won with any kind of better trip.

July 8

  • Race 5: The win for Bon Fire Diva is less impressive when you consider the following: the contest came off the turf and she became a logical favorite against a field of slow dirt horses and horses better suited for the turf. She broke out to an uncontested lead and led by eight lengths with just over a quarter-mile to run. She managed to hold on to a 1 1/4-length victory while being encouraged through a last split in a time exceeding 28 seconds. She is likely a bet-against for me next time out.

Jockey and Trainer of the Week

You can’t hold down Jaime Rodriguez for long. Two weeks ago he had one winner in 17 rides. Last week he had eight winners and finished in the money 18 times with 25 starts. He now leads Carol Cedeno by 14 winners in the jockey race.

Two trainers share the honors this week. Kieron Magee and Gary Capuano each saddled three winners with just four starters. Their other entries finished second. Two of the Capuano winners were Tappin Cat in the Sussex Stakes and Malibu Beauty in the Peach Blossom Stakes, Magee continued his excellence for the meet. All 10 of his entries for the year have finished in the money, with five of them winning.

Handicappers’ Toolbox

This week’s maxim for debate is “never bet fillies and mares against colts and horses.” Generally, I follow this rule with the following exceptions. Obviously, champions like Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra are an exception for me, as well as virtually every handicapper. I also bend the rule for classy turf runners and sprinters. You don’t see the girls pitted against the boys in the great majority of meat-and-potato races that fill an everyday card, and I am reluctant to support them when they are entered. It may be argued that there would be more female winners if trainers were more inclined to enter them, but even if this a self-fulfilling maxim, you just don’t see many wins by females outside the exceptions noted above.