Delaware Handicap ChatterBy: Laurie Ross Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds
First carded in 1937, the Delaware Handicap’s history is an impressive roll call of elite champions. Many passed along their winning genes to shape future generations and are considered Rene-de-Course (superior mares, a/k/a blue hens). Busanda, Miss Grillo, Flower Bowl, Old Hat, Susan’s Girl and Straight Deal and Shocker T. are just a few who have races named in their honor.
Many horse players believe that pedigree handicapping is only dug out of the handicapping tool box for maiden races or figuring out the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winners. The pedigree angle is handy in races such as the Delaware, or any race where horses are attempting a new distance or surface for the first time.
The 2016 Delaware Handicap attracted a select field of six fillies and mares. The historic Grade 1 event is one of a handful of races carded at 1 ¼ miles over the dirt. Half of this year’s field have traveled the classic distance, however, none of them have won.
Todd Pletcher owns four Delaware trophies. They may be getting a little dusty, since the last time Todd had his photo taken with the Delaware Stakes winner was in 2010 with Life at Ten. This year, Pletcher’s hope lies with MEI LING. Her sire Empire Maker gave us two-time Delaware Champ Royal Delta. Mei Ling certainly has the pedigree to handle 1 ¼ miles. Her damsire Seeking the Gold won the ten furlong Super Derby. Her lineage includes the under-rated Lord At War, Super horse Secretariat and Classic Chef de Race Hail to Reason.
Mei Ling should be fit for the Delaware ‘Cap. In her previous start in Belmont Park’s Rags to Riches Invitational Stakes at 1 ¼ miles, the mare went to the post as the favorite, but Theogony, set snail-like fractions, while opening a wide margin and stole the race. Mei Ling was second, behind by eight lengths, but she did beat the third place finisher by 2 ½ lengths, which is encouraging. On the down side, Mei Ling hasn’t been able to conquer Grade 3 competition, although this is a pretty weak field compared to former years. Johnny V. is off Mei Ling and Jose Ortiz takes over. Plus, the blinkers go back on. Uh, that would be on Mei Ling, not the jock.
Trainer Larry Jones stood in the 2005 Delaware winner’s circle with Island Sand. This year, Jones sends out his sensational multiple Grade 1 heroine I’M A CHATTERBOX. The filly’s pedigree screams sprinter/miler, yet the daughter of Munnings has won two of four starts at 1 1/8 miles and was second in last year’s Alabama Stakes (G1) at 1 ¼ miles. The filly prepped over the Delaware surface in her last start. Outclassing rivals by 8 ½ lengths in the Obeah Stakes. BTW, the race was named for the 1969 – 1970 Delaware Handicap winner. What could be more fitting?
PAID UP SUBSCRIBER is an improving filly and will be dangerous. She successfully stretched out to 1 1/8 miles and captured the Fleur De Lis Handicap (G3) by a widening three lengths. The daughter of Candy Ride should handle 1 ¼ miles. Her stakes placed dam Shriek is by Street Cry and is a half sister to a turf router. In addition to a two-race win streak, Paid Up Subscriber has been breezing well at Saratoga.
MILAYA jumped from a 1 1/16 mile optional claimer into the 1 ½ mile Rages to Riches stakes at Belmont The daughter of Eskendereya set a slow pace, but tired to finish fifth, 11 lengths behind the winner. Milaya’s pedigree is borderline for classic distances. Although she has a 2-16 record, Milaya has hit the board in four of her last five starts. Eskendereya’s offspring tend to improve with age, and this four year old may be starting to pick it up. At 15-1 ML, she’s worth a look as a logical longshot.
MONEYSONCHARLOTTE’S two victories were earned when she was able to dictate her own terms on the pace. The daughter of Mizzen Mast has been working well at Monmouth, but seems up against it due to the distance and tougher competition.
PENWITH is a very well-bred mare. By Bernardini out of Composure, a multiple G1 winner at 1 1/16 miles. Penwith’s ¾ sister Centring is multiple graded stakes placed. Centring’s full brother Teaming was third in the Woodward. Composure is a half sister to the dam of this year’s Southwest Stakes hero, Suddenbreakingnews. Penwith enjoys running on the lead. She won her first two starts of the year, but tired badly in her last two races and was beaten by a combined 20 ½ lengths. Penwith had a nice mini-vacation, so maybe she can turn things around.
Half the field likes to set or press the pace, quite unusual in a 1 ¼ mile race. PAID UP SUBSCRIBER has the most upside. Sure, she’s stretching out, but she draws the rail and can draft along saving ground behind the pace. She brings in confidence and a two-win streak.
I think 1 ½ miles is a furlong too far for I’M A CHATTERBOX but as the only Grade 1 winner in the race, she’ll out-class many in here. The courageous filly has finished off of the board only once in her 13 race career.
If PENWITH is fresh and ready to run, she can be dangerous. She has the breeding and her late pace speed figures say she’ll be a tough customer if she runs her race.
MILAYA is worth a longshot play.
MEI LING has hit the board in 16 of 21 starts. She’s fit and should be able to handle this group. Besides, Todd Pletcher just rearranged his cabinet to make room for another trophy.
#1 PAID UP SUBSCRIBER (2-1)
#5 MEI LING (5-1)
#4 I’M A CHATTERBOX (6-5)
#3 MILAYA (15-1)
Only six betting interests make for a chalky race. Let’s play a $2 box super and toss $10 WPS on #3 if her odds are 10-1 or better.