The 80th running of the $750,000 G1 Delaware Handicap will take place this Saturday at Delaware Park. Songbird will headline the field of 6 who will run the 1-1/4 mile race over the 2-turn dirt course. Future Hall of Famer Songbird has scared off a lot of the competition and will be a prohibitive favorite, making the race for the $150,000 2nd place share of the purse the only hope for most of the field.
Songbird has 11 G1 wins, a bankroll of over $4 million, was 2016’s unanimous Eclipse Award winner for champion 3yr old filly, has Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith aboard, and is coming in off an 8-1/2 furlong tightener in the G1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont where she won without much effort. Songbird will be stretching out to the classic distance of 1-1/4 mile, the same distance that she ran in last year’s G1 Alabama Stakes where she won by 7 lengths at Saratoga. The only blemish on Songbird’s stellar resume is a nostril length defeat to the great Beholder in last year’s Breeder’s Cup Distaff. Songbird is the rare horse that I will concede victory. I will search for my 2nd place finisher and hope to cash an ice cold exacta.
Delaware Park dirt routes are being won wire to wire at a 37% clip. Nobody comes from very far park at this track, which suits Songbird just fine as she usually has the lead after the first call. In a small field of 6 with a long run to the 1st turn, post positions should not matter much.
With Songbird being my logical and sentimental pick to win, the horse that I landed on for 2nd is the #2 Martini Glass. Martini Glass is the morning line 3rd choice at 8-1. Martini Glass has been posting consistent mid-90s Brisnet speed ratings at both Tampa Bay Downs and Delaware Park this year, and is coming off of a nice 2nd place finish in an ungraded stake tune-up at Delaware Park on June 10th. In that race, she was 2 lengths off of a quick pace where she settled uncomfortably between horse. Martini Glass took the lead entering the stretch and was nosed by a horse who came back on her inside. That race was at 1-1/8 miles, and while the added distance may be a concern, I believe that race will serve as a tightener for this week. Jockey Jose Ferrer will be back in the saddle for trainer Keith Nations.
The only other horse I even considered is the #4, Line of Best Fit. This Kieron Magee trainee has won 5 of her last 6, all optional claiming affairs at Parx, Penn National and Delaware Park. This winning streak is nice, but the level of competition is nowhere near what she will see here. Magee, however, is one of those trainers that doesn’t send out a ton of horses but usually sends out horses who are ready to compete. This 7yr old mare has a respectable lifetime bankroll of $468,240, which makes her a good fit against most of this field, except for Songbird, of course. I like the horse, I like the trainer, but I don’t like this spot for her.
Of the other 3 contenders, the #1, Miss Mo Kelly, and the #6, Hone In, don’t have the speed figures to compete. #3, Weep No More has been running in graded stakes company but has not come close to even hitting the board since April of 2016. Playing any of these three never crossed my mind.
The Delaware Handicap will be run as 2 races. The main event will feature Songbird who will dictate the pace and run away from this field. I don’t see a scenario where she doesn’t dominate. The rest of the field will be running a race for the place money. Martini glass should sit behind anybody foolish enough to be too close to Songbird and will have every opportunity to pick up the pieces and collect the place purse. $150,000 would more than double her lifetime earnings. Not a bad prize for 2nd.
The only bet I will make on this race is an ice cold exacta with Songbird over Martini Glass.