This weekend, Picks & Ponderings stays in the Midwest for a majority of its previews. Among this week's pieces is a detailed look below at Delaware Park's G1 Delaware Handicap. The weekend also features a look at action from Indiana Downs with Nicolle Neulist tackling their sophomore features - the G2 Indiana Derby and G2 Indiana Oaks. Picks & Ponderings also has Paul Mazur previewing the G3 Hanshin Cup from Arlington for three-and-up males.
Not too many tracks can say that their richest race of the year is for females, but Delaware Park can. Their $750,000 Grade One Delaware Handicap serves as the highlight of their meet. In its earliest years, however, the race began life in 1937 - the same year as the oval that houses the DelCap - as the New Castle Handicap. A renaming for the oval (and state housing it) came in 1955. The Delaware Handicap also functions as a vital checkpoint in the older filly-and-mare calendar, with runners here appearing in Saratoga, or the Breeders' Cup. Quite fitting that the Delaware Handicap, or "DelCap" for short, has a Saratoga connection. For four years in the 1980s while Delaware languished in closed limbo, the race moved up to Saratoga and was contested in late August. When it came back to Delaware in 1986, it settled into its mid-July position it has now. The race has been up and down the graded ladder, and got back to being a Grade One in 2013.
Two heroines of the G3 Sixty Sails - Fleet Indian (2006) and Life at Ten (2010) captured the Delaware Handicap in the same year as Hawthorne's G3 Sixty Sails. Royal Delta (2012) captured the Delaware Handicap and the Breeders' Cup Distaff in the same season (and won this race again in 2013), and is the only one to pull off that feat. Yet the DelCap most remember is the 2011 renewal, which featured "a great pair of fillies".
2010 Three-year-old filly champion Blind Luck outbobs (eventual Horse of the Year) Havre de Grace after the two squared off in the stretch in the 2011 Delaware Handicap.
Delaware Park's website offers a free video stream and is also available on the Horse Races Now app. Such services are available every live day of the Delaware Park live meeting.
Delaware Park -- Race 10 -- G1 Delaware Handicap -- One and one-quarter miles on dirt -- post time 5:45 pm ET
Scheduled for July 18th, this year's DelCap puts seven in the box, with the ten furlong distance ranging from a question mark to an unknown for the runners. One runner who does have long distance form - albeit on the lawn - is ROSALIND. Two back a winner at two turns in the G3 Sheepshead Bay, she ran fourth in the G1 Phipps on Belmont Day, chasing Wedding Toast and Untappble that afternoon around one turn. ROSALIND's best races have been at two turns - like her G1 Ashland win, her podium finish in the G3 Suwanee River, and her G3 Sheepshead Bay win. In a race without a clear front runner, ROSALIND stalked off a slow pace in the Sheepshead Bay and kicked clear. ROSALIND will also go third off the layoff. Joel Rosario and Chad Brown team up. It's a team of humans that will attract money, but in an evenly matched Delaware Handicap (only one horse above 10-1 on the morning line), the tote price could be square. The pace targets in the DelCap could be FRIVOLOUS - who upset the G2 Fleur de Lis at 32-1 last out - and AMERICA. Two post-layoff starts for AMERICA have resulted in dull efforts, but both were at Churchill and it's quite possible she doesn't like the dirt there. With a change in surface and a stretchout to ten furlongs AMERICA could get back on the beam. Bred nicely on the paternal side for the distance, she's from the barn of Bill Mott - who brought Royal Delta down and took back-to-back victories. It's quite possible AMERICA defaults into the lead that no one wants and steals the race in the same manner Calamity Kate took last week's G3 Delaware Oaks. But FRIVOLOUS and SHEER DRAMA could be in that front flight too. AMERICA does have a better chance to handle the distance from this corner - her only try at ten furlongs in last year's G1 Alabama features wide turns and non-representative form. JOINT RETURN was second in the Obeah (herself a two-time DelCap winner in 1969-70), the G3 that functions as this race's local feeder. JOINT RETURN got a fair pace to close into in the G3 Obeah and is on the form upswing. But without a go-for-broke front runner, it's possible JOINT RETURN gets left with too much to do at the top of the lane. While JOINT RETURN can handle the distance (being by the Include-Broad Brush sire line) and does like the surface (three starts with one win and two seconds), she's more of a defensive use. She's certainly more usable than FRIVOLOUS or SHEER DRAMA. This space didn't endorse FRIVOLOUS at 32-1 in the Fleur de Lis and won't take the fraction of the price she'll be here, while getting off the Churchill track she likes. Nor will this space endorse SHEER DRAMA - a horse with limited passing gears.
#6 ROSALIND (6/1)
#2 AMERICA (8/1)
#7 JOINT RETURN (2/1)
Longshot: Not often do you think of Graham Motion as a local, but Motion's day-to-day lower-grade (less than stakes quality) runners ply their trade at Delaware Park. Fair Hill, where he trains at, isn't far from the oval, too. Given the geography, that makes #3 FORTUNE PEARL (10/1) the home team player in the DelCap. And FORTUNE PEARL does not enter as a hopeless local, despite being the highest price on the morning line. Qualified humans in the Trevor McCarthy/Graham Motion team (42% in the money) get together, and McCarthy takes off a day at Laurel to ride here - and he's hitting at 25% wins in his day-trip excursions to Delaware. Beaten only two and a quarter lengths in her only try at ten panels last summer in the G1 Alabama, FORTUNE PEARL does have a win over the oval courtesy of last year's G3 Delaware Oaks. Bred similarly to AMERICA, she ran better in the slower-paced Obeah last time as opposed to the faster-paced DuPont two back. Perhaps the slower pace that materializes here is a boon.
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