Delaware Park Handicappers’ Notebook 2022 Vol. 23

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

October 26 – October 29

The dirt track continued to play very fair. Horses won out front but also were able to close, even in some very short fields where the pace was moderate. Ever since the weather turned cooler, the initial speed bias has disappeared. Biases can sometimes be affected by weather and temperature, as well as track maintenance processes. One thing that is true at Delaware is that however the track is playing, it is rare that a bias will or won’t be present for short stretches. The last two years have had long stretches of speed bias and long stretches of no speed bias. Keep that in mind next year once the first pattern is established.

  • 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.

October 26

Race 5: Pepe and Haywood had demonstrated a propensity to run well in the mud, and his win at 11-1 odds had more to do with the wet track surface than his current overall ability. Don’t get fooled if he comes back on a dry track.

October 27

Race 7: A “racing rarity”. Each of the four horses in the field went off at approximately 2-1. One entrant, Chief Ron demonstrated the ability to stalk and close. As noted above, even in short fields the track has played fair to closers and the running style of Chief Ron, as well as a good ride by jockey John Hiraldo, enabled him to get up for the win. What you see is what you get with this very consistent four-year-old. He will most likely run another Beyer in the 70s next time out.

October 29

Race 2: Rileys Dude‘s past performances showed three claims in the last nine races and earnings of over $76,000 last year running in allowance races and for higher tags than the $7,500 claiming price he was entered for on Saturday. His 2022 earnings were only $31,000 and he was winless for the year, so the drop was warranted. That said, there was a five-way shake for this four-year-old who won by running down the field in the last quarter despite looking unimpressive early. His days at running at the $32,000 level are most likely behind him, but don’t be surprised if he gets a little more jump in his step after the claim.

Jockey and Trainer of the Week

Jockey Angel Arroyo does not get the spotlight often in this game. He has been riding for 15 years and is a solid professional, but he has less than 100 rides at Delaware this year. Last week he went four-for-seven and became one of 12 jockeys that have double digit wins for the year. I recently visited Cal Lynch’s barn at Fair Hill and watched Arroyo work out a number of horses on a cold morning. After he was through, he then went to the gym to do his personal workout. Such is the unglamorous routine of many a jockey.

Trainer Brittany Russell has kept a small string of horses at Delaware this year with that contingent being overseen by assistant trainer Emma Wolfe. The barn had two wins and a second place finish with just four starters last week. For the year at Delaware Park, they have a 27% win percentage and a 65% in-the-money percentage.

Handicappers’ Toolbox

Tampa Bay Downs is sometimes referred to as “Delaware Park South” as a number of the Delaware horses and jockeys will winter there and generally be competitive. Be wary of the middle and lower claimers who move on to Parx during the winter because the stock there is tougher. We have noted numerous times that Parx horses do well at Delaware, so it makes sense that the converse is not true.