Delaware Park Handicappers’ Notebook 2022 Vol. 13

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

August 17 – August 20

There were 18 dirt races conducted during the week. In 16 of them the winner was no worse than 3rd at the first call. Watch to see if this trend continues Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, the living legend Dr. Blarney is scheduled to run in Race 4. Like Tom Brady, “the doctor” unretired this year. Foaled in 2013, this ultimate hard-knocker has won 26 of 38 starts and earned over $750,000 lifetime.

August 18

  • Race 3: In this nine-horse field there were five horses that went off between the odds of 2.10-1 and 4.20-1. Most likely the crowd was “guessing” in this maiden special weight because of the limited running lines compiled by the competitors. In addition, what lines were present were not indicative that any of the entrants would be able to achieve the Beyer Par for this class. When I see a field that contains a large number of evenly bet runners, I tend to bet very little or skip the race entirely as there is little value even if you handicap the field correctly. In this case, Nelson Avenue, a first-time starter by Into Mischief, won narrowly over Superstitieux, and they were well clear of the rest.

Jockey and Trainer of the Week

Jockey John Hiraldo had five wins from his 10 mounts this week. Four of those wins came on Wednesday’s card. Hiraldo who was an Eclipse Award finalist in the apprentice of the year category, rode at the ultra-tough Oaklawn meet in the winter/spring.

Trainer Sam Cronk got lifetime training win number 1,105 on Wednesday. Coincidentally, it was Hiraldo in the irons. It was Cronk’s second win of the meet. What’s so remarkable about that you say? Well consider this: Cronk began his training career in 1965. More than half a century and 10 US presidents have gone by since Cronk began training.

Handicappers’ Toolbox

When a claim is entered on a standardbred horse, it is a common practice at some tracks to let the bettors know that before the race is run. I wish that thoroughbred racetracks would do the same as a claim is a sign that at least one “insider” thought the horse was sound or had enough potential to invest in its future. Sometimes old tenets of handicapping get discarded, but I believe that first time off a claim is as valid today as it was when Sam Cronk began training. Most successful claiming trainers do an extensive evaluation of a claim before running them back. When they do return, they are likely to be trying to win to quickly recapture some of their initial monetary investment.