Delaware Park 2022: That’s a wrap

The 2022 racing season at Delaware Park was unique if for no other reason than it was the first year of operations under new management. That said, it was also a season filled with some familiar faces and some new ones.

Here were some of the top moments through which we’ll remember the 2022 Delaware Park meet:

Meet the New Boss…Same as the Old Boss?

When the casino and racetrack at Delaware Park were sold last year to a Canadian private equity firm (Clairvest Group) and a subsidiary of Rubico Gaming, it marked the first ownership change at the facility in nearly 40 years. Some wondered how that might impact – for good or ill – the racing side of the business.

One year later I can only say that as a bettor I did not notice any significant changes (except one, noted below) on the racing side. The look of the racing facility, the wagering menu, and the class of racing all looked very similar to the last few years. Perhaps the new management is concentrating their attention on the casino first or maybe they will continue to be hands-off in regards to the track. Let’s see what they do the second time out in 2023.

Moon Man

Since 1984, John Mooney had spent approximately 23 years as the chief racing executive at the track. In August he surprised just about everyone and announced his retirement, and his departure is another wild card for those determining how, if at all, this will lead to significant changes on the racing side of the company.

To honor his years of service the seven-furlong turf course was named after him in a dedication ceremony that took place in October. Happy trails, John!

Horses for Courses 

As we all know, making money as an owner in this business is a daunting task. In August 2021, Flat Out Flying was claimed for a modest $6,250 by trainer Cal Lynch and Lynch Racing LLC. This year alone the horse has earned over $108,000. In his five dirt starts at Delaware this year, he had four wins and one third place finish. This six-year-old was the ultimate hard knocker at Delaware in 2022.

Another horse who had a great 2022 at Delaware was Bound by Destiny. Trained by Anthony Pecoraro and owned by Mark Esposito (Black Cloud Racing), the two-year-old Lord Nelson filly ran the table during the just-completed Delaware Park meet, winning all four of her starts. No other runner won more at the meet, and she was the only one of the five four-time winners to own a spotless ledger. The other four-time winners were Tiz Herself (Flying Pheasant Farm), Gunslinger (Manfred and Barry Roos) and Shoot Themessenger (Mohan Stable).

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Dead Heat

The owners’ title was a dead heat between last year’s winner, Bell Gable Stables (Nick and Delora Beaver/ Trainer Gary Contessa), and Runnymoore Stable (Greg and Caroline Bentley), who utilized trainers Cal Lynch and Michael Matz very heavily. Just behind them was the group of Danny Brown, Charis Brenneman, and trainer Greg Compton; this trio combined for 13 winners.

Not a Walk in the Park

Midnight Stroll (sired by Not This Time) won the Delaware Oaks in a thriller. Trained by John Terranova and ridden by out of town jockey Eric Cancel, the filly defeated favorite Shotgun Hottie in the meet’s second most prestigious race, surviving an objection by the rider of the runner-up to win by a head.

“I wasn’t worried about it,” winning rider Eric Cancel said of the objection. “I did come out to the horse a little bit, but I wasn’t the one that made contact. He angled his horse into me a little bit, you know?”

Did Jamie or Jaime Win?

Trainer Jamie Ness won his eighth consecutive trainer title (a Delaware Park record) by notching 66 wins. For his career Ness has captured ten training titles at Delaware, trailing only the legendary Grover “Bud” Delp, who holds the record with eleven titles. Delp, a Hall of Famer, trained Spectacular Bid, who some say might have been the best horse ever to run at Delaware (or anywhere else, for that matter).

Jockey Jaime Rodriguez captured 134 wins to notch his second straight riding title. His nearest competitor had 75 fewer wins. Although Rodriguez was first call for Ness, he had many wins with other trainers and even brought home numerous winners that paid double digits. He is a strong finisher, and his turf riding ability continues to improve. Over a multi-day period late in the season, he won with eight consecutive starters just missing the North American record of nine.

Tip of The ‘Cap

In the most prestigious race of the year, Miss Leslie (daughter of Paynter) romped in the Delaware Handicap by a record 12 lengths. She had shown a proclivity for both the track and distance, so she was no surprise. Ridden by Angel Cruz and trained by Claudio Gonzaléz, she had a very solid year overall with five in the money finishes from six starts and nearly a half million dollars in earnings.

“When you get to ride those kind of good fillies,” winning rider Cruz said, “you just got to hang on and go from there.”