Looking Way Up at DEL Handicap

DEL Handicap (Grade 1)- $750.000 Purse
DEL- For Fillies and Mares Three Years Old and Upward
One Mile and One Quarter on the Dirt
July 15, 2017

As we get ready for the upcoming SAR and DMR meets next weekend, this weekend provides a chance for some different race tracks to get a chance in the spotlight. The highlight of this weekend’s racing takes us to DEL, for the 12th running of the Grade 1 DEL Handicap. This is a race for females that like to run a longer then most. We are treated to a fantastic this year, so make sure to watch this race! When it first showed up on the virtual schedule in 2006, it went for a purse of $1,000.000, but that was cut by 25% for the 2010 season, and the purse has remained at that point ever since. There have been many great winners of this race, but the most prolific earner was Avery Island, who won in 2013. Let’s meet our field!

#1- Way Up (Team 7 Illusions, ridden by Mario Gutierrez)- One of the best female horses in the game right now, regardless of preferred surface of distance. After finishing second in the BC Distaff last year, she has won one of four starts, but has always been in the money, and quite honestly, she’s always getting a photo op with the winner at the line. Just the tiniest of better fortunes, and she could be four for four this year. While she still runs against good company here, she won’t be missing Wicked Heat and Notarized Kate in the starting gate. She really seems due to win, but she is also the highweight in this field.

#2- Zedge (Mb Stables, ridden by M E Smith)- Mb Stables brings three to the gate for this race. Three is also the number of graded wins he needs to have (as of press time) to hit 400 for his career. Judging by his success rate, perhaps the DEL Handicap will be that race. Zedge has a good strike rate as well, winning half, or six of twelve, races that she has been in. Her attempts at graded events have not been as successful as of yet, as in the three tries so far, she has not hit the board. This is a long race for her, and we’ll see what she thinks of it here.

#3- Lucky You (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by F Pennington)- Since her fascinating dead heat with the great Attraction last year, Lucky You went on to run in the BC Fillies and Mares turf, but that did not go to well. Unfortunately for new trainer Maxmillion Farm, who purchased her a month after that race, that trend has carried into this year. While she does have a couple of decent third place finishes this year, Lucky You has not been to the winners circle, and in most cases, has not been close. Her last start saw her get moved to the main track for the Grade 1 La Troienne, but the sloppy track did her no favors. She needs to bounce back!

#4- Honest Chai (Mb Stables, ridden by R Bejarano)- This four year old filly only has four career races so far, but she has made them count. Well, up until her last one. After breaking her maiden at HOU in her second start, Mb Stables made a huge jump forward with her by entering her in the Grade 2 Ruffian, and she would win the race. It was a fantastic effort, so hopes were that she could carry that on into the Grade 1 Phipps at BEL last month, but she would not beat any of her rivals in that race. Perhaps there was a good excuse for that, but this race is clearly a case of, “will the real Honest Chai please stand up!” This is a pivotal race for her.

#5- Heart Nebulae (SamIam, ridden by J R Velazquez)- This Sweep The Nebulae filly has won five of 14 career starts, and is coming off a good looking victory in the muddy Grade 3 Matron back in May. It was one of three races this year as she has been relatively lightly raced since running in the BC Distaff last fall, where she finished in the middle of the field. Lately, she seems to have adopted a strategy of wanting to be near the front, and it has fared well for her so far. However, fans of Heart Nebulae will want to carefully look at what the next horse on this list seems to be here for.

#6- Wayn (Team 7 Illusions, ridden by R Maragh)- Should be a good teammate for Way Up, since they are actually out of the same dam. What Wayn has proven herself to be is a good allowance horse, and she comes into this race on a four-race second place finish streak in those races. To do that, she likes to jump right out on the lead, and tries to stay there. It seems like she is here to help Way Up, but at the same time, if she won a couple of those allowances that she was second in, you could say she deserves a shot here. The blinkers are coming off, and she increases her distance. I would not be surprised to see a complete tactical change with her either, and she didn’t go out to the lead at all.

#7- Drill (Mb Stables, ridden by R J Albarado)- Comes into the race with the best resume of any of the three in the field saddled by the trainer. Drill has one win in four starts this year, but has never failed to hit the board in any of them. What is interesting though is that while she continues to try the graded level, the only Graded win she has, which was a good one, was as a two year old. That was with prior trainer Bigking, and since arriving at Mb Stables for $250.000 in private sales, Drill has been consistent, but has not one another big one. For many of us, including myself, all those in the money finishes would make her a huge success, but I have to wonder if by Mb’s standards, she has been a little frustrating. At 118 pounds, she is close to being the low weight, so that may make this race to get that big win.

#8- The Reaper (John Henry, ridden by D Moran)- No one in this field has more career earnings then the over $2,300.000 earned by this Holly Summer mare. The Reaper has won eight of 24 career starts, as her career got off to a very fast start. A successful two year old season was finished off by winning the BC Juvenile Fillies, and six months later she became a KYO champion. There are not many out there that can say such a thing, and if this were July 2015, she’s the obvious favorite. She’s remained an excellent horse since them, but has not won a graded race since the KYO. In 2017, she has one win in four starts, an allowance. It’s also been about two years since she has run this long, as well. I think she gets piece, but can’t put her on top.

Prediction: 1-7-5-8

— NS

Categories: Grade I, STAKES ARTICLES

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