Saturday’s 9th race at Delaware Park will be the G2 Delaware Handicap. A field of 9 will compete for a $750,000 purse at the classic 1-1/4 mile distance over Delaware Park’s 2 turn dirt course. The Handicap had been run with a G1 tag until this year when it was downgraded to a G2 affair.
As the name suggests, the Delaware Handicap is a handicap race where horses are assigned weights based on their ability, with the more accomplished horses receiving the higher weights. In theory, a handicap system allows horses of different abilities to run equitably against each other while carrying varying weights. The racing secretary at the host track assigns these weights.
The high weight in this field at 120 lbs is the 5yr old millionaire and multiple graded stakes winning Unbridled Mo. Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez, Unbridled Mo has been shipping around the country for the past 2 years, not running back to back races in the same spot since March of 2016. Last out, Unbridled Mo finished 3rd, beaten 9 lengths by champion Abel Tasman in the G1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont.
On the other end of the spectrum, the low weight of 112 lbs will be Sneaky Betty. This 20-1 morning line long shot will be making her first appearance in graded stakes company.
There looks to be some decent speed in his field with Teresa Z, Farrell, Elate, and Proper Discretion all posting very respectable early speed figures. Of this group, Elate looks the quickest, yet she probably doesn’t want to jump right to the front. Elate will be making her 2018 debut following a stellar 2017 season which culminated in a 4th place finish in the Breeder’s Cup Distaff where she was sent off as the 2-1 betting favorite. The only question about this mare is her readiness following the long layoff.
Proper Discretion looks like speed that needs to be up front, yet her speed is the cheapest of the bunch so I do not expect her to be there as they enter the far turn. She is a nice stakes horse, just not a graded stakes horse. Farrell, however, is a legitimate graded stakes front runner with a couple of G2 victories last year. While I respect her abilities, at the added distance I see her setting it up for one of the stalkers or late runners.
Mopotism, trained by Doug O’Neill and ridden by Mario Guttierez, Mopotism has been running exclusively in the top graded events for over a year. She chased Farrell in the Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs in her last but to no avail, finishing 3rd. Sneaky Betty, Teresa Z, Nikki My Darling and Fuhriously Kissed all look outclassed.
If Elate does not need a race and is able to run anywhere near her 2017 form she wins here easily. But I will not count on that. The horse I landed on is Unbridled Mo. At a morning line of 5-2, it is a little cheaper than I like, so let’s build a case. Unbridled Mo is 7 for 11 lifetime, including 4 graded stake wins. Her last, a defeat at the hands of Abel Tasman, was a slow pace where she traveled 28 feet farther than the winner and just could not overcome. This week she should have plenty of pace to run at. This will also be her 2nd race off of a layoff which may give her a fitness advantage over Elate. With the team of Pletcher/Velazquez behind her, I will take Unbridled Mo for the win.