Delaware Park Handicappers’ Notebook 2022 Vol. 8

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 13 – July 16

Both the turf and the dirt courses played fair all week with horses able to win both on and off the pace. With the impending hot weather for this week, note that these extremely hot days traditionally favor horses that can establish an early lead, especially in cheaper races. What tends to happen is that many of the entries will have expended all their energy halfway through a race and it becomes more of a parade to the finish with little ground being made up.

  • 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 13

  • Race 3: Coppola ran his first race in a maiden special weight against middling 3-year-old opponents. Trainer Jonathan Thomas has taken his time with this son of Into Mischief that was purchased for $800,000 in 2020. The win looked impressive, but the late initial start and the fact that he began his career at Delaware lead me to believe the connections will continue to be patient with this horse in the hopes that he will ultimately develop into a stakes horse down the road.

July 16

  • Race 5: Similar to the horse noted above this contest featured a well meant 3-year-old making her initial start in July. The Elle Train won easily for trainer Christophe Clement, but there did not appear to be any world beaters in the field. Might be something special, but once again I suspect the connections will take their time with her. Few trainers are as good on the lawn as Clement, so it will be interesting to see where she is placed next.

Jockey and Trainer of the Week

Jockey Mychel Sanchez continued his comeback last week with five wins and 11 in-the-money finishes in 18 starts. Sanchez was prohibited from riding early in the meet after he was suspended for betting on horses other than his own mounts, in a number of races last winter. He currently stands 6th in the jockey standings for the meet with 11 wins.

Trainer Baltazar Galvan had all five of his starters finish in-the-money. Prior to last week he only had eight in-the-money finishes from 34 runners.

Handicappers’ Toolbox

This week’s handicapping topic is “weight.” Trainers obviously think it is important and will often use apprentice jockeys so that their entries carry less weight. Trainer Larry Jones famously complained that his trainee Havre de Grace was given the top weight of 124 pounds in her showdown against Blind Luck, carrying 122, in the 2011 Delaware Handicap. He was particularly upset that trainer Jerry Hollendorfer had campaigned for Blind Luck to receive that weight assignment. He was even more upset when Blind Luck nipped Havre de Grace at the wire.

Would I prefer my selections carry as little weight as possible? Obviously, yes. Is it a big factor in my handicapping? Hardly ever. My opinion comes from two perspectives. I would argue that you have to use the smallest micrometer to determine two horses are so evenly matched that a small weight advantage would be the deciding factor in selecting a winner. If two horses finish close together in one race and there is a significant (7 to 10 pounds) change in their respective weight the next time they meet, only then will i consider weight as one of the factors in my selection. This scenario rarely happens in day-to-day racing. Additionally I cannot get past my belief that a small amount of weight is not a huge impost for a 1,000 lb. animal, particularly in a sprint. Olympic track distance runners weigh less than 200 pounds. If they were required to carry an additional two or three-tenths of a pound on their back it would rarely be the difference between victory and defeat.