Delaware Park Handicappers’ Notebook 2022 Vol. 12

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.

This week, we’ll take a pause to review the meet to date as we reach the half pole.

Notable races and trips

The dirt course has mainly played fair this season. The rail has been a little deep at times, and for some stretches we did not see many closers succeed. But by and large races, have run formfully.

The turf course has played favorably to speed for most of the year. This has been the pattern for the last two years. As I have often noted, biases are tricky and track conditions can change for a myriad of reasons. That said, if you had tweaked your handicapping to the patterns noted above, you would have benefited more often than not.

Jockey and Trainer of the Week

Jaime Rodriguez is well on his way to another jockey title with 58 wins to date. It is interesting to note that he is only 1 for 17 with two year-olds and 0 for 10 in stakes. This is more a reflection of the horses he has been on in those categories than any weakness by the jockey, but it should be considered in your handicapping.

Jockey Rodriguez is the first call for the leading trainer at the meet, Jamie Ness. Ness is also heading for another training title. He has had slightly better stock this year, but the majority of his wins have come in the claiming and allowance races for 3-year-olds and up.

Neither Rodriguez nor Ness is going to gather you many longshot plays – both are typically bet as you would expect meet leaders to be – but trainer Ness’s average win payoff of $5.60 is comparable to or better than four other top 10 trainers at the meet. Rodriguez’s average win payoff of $6.10 is the lowest among the top 10 jockeys at the meet.

We’ll keep our powder dry for the moment on notable horses. There have been a couple of nice two-year-old efforts, and horses like Intrepid Daydream may bear watching. But let’s see how the rest of the meet shakes out.

Handicapper’s toolbox

Delaware Park has carded a solid meet thus far, and one reason has been its decision to card eight-race programs. There are still too many short fields, especially when they are off the turf, but this is an industry-wide, and not solely a Delaware Park, problem. When there are short fields, multi-race wagers like Pick 4s and Pick 5s are tough to play, unless you take a stand against chalk. Don’t be hesitant to skip some races and up your units bet in other races that provide value. Even if you are a whale, it is extremely difficult to overcome takeout by pounding low price horses.