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All eyes will be on Delaware Park this weekend when they play host to the 81st running of the Grade 2, $750,000 Delaware Handicap on Saturday. The 1 1/4-mile summer classic for fillies and mares has attracted a field of nine, including a pair of Grade 1 winners in Elate and Unbridled Mo and two Grade 2 winners in Farrell and Mopotism. The event is scheduled to go off as race 9 with a local post time of 5:15 PM ET.
Elate headlines the field, but she has not been seen since finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Del Mar on November 3. The now-4-year-old filly had a big season last year, winning the Grade 1 Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park on September 30 and the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga, the latter of which was run at 1 1/4 miles. She also shipped to Delaware Park at one point last season to win the $50,000 Light Hearted Stakes. She has earnings of $870,325, so a here today would push her over the $1 million mark. Trainer Bill Mott won the Delaware Handicap twice before when Royal Delta repeated in 2012 and 2013.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Unbridled Mo will try to rebound from a well-beaten third last time out in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps. Previously, the Kentucky-bred upset the country’s top older filly and mare in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Stakes by over 2 lengths at Oaklawn Park. Last year, she won a pair of Grade 3 events, so she has an impressive resume. Despite finishing third in the Ogden Phipps, she nonetheless eclipsed the $1 million mark in total earnings.
Pletcher, meanwhile, is seeking his fifth Delaware Handicap victory, which would set the record for most wins by a trainer in the race. Pletcher won his first in 2001 with Irving’s Baby, then followed with back-to-back victories with Fleet Indian in 2006 and Unbridled Belle in 2007 before most recently winning with Life at Ten in 2010. He is currently tied with Henry Clark, who won the race in in 1958 and 1959 with Endine and in 1969 and 1970 with Obeah.
The field for the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap from the rail out: Teresa Z, Sneaky Betty, Mopotism, Proper Discretion, Unbridled Mo, Elate, Farrell, Nikki My Darling, and Fuhriously Kissed.
#3 Mopotism – This filly always seems to be around, but perhaps this will be the the day when she picks up her second Grade 2 victory. She won the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita Park in January, and last time out, she was a solid third in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs. There wasn’t enough pace for her to run at in that race, but on paper, this race sets up much differently. This filly will not quit trying, and if they are coming back to her down the stretch, then she will run them down. Elate is clearly the more talented individual, but Mopotism should have a tremendous fitness edge, and that could be enough of an advantage for her to pull off a mild upset in this race.
#6 Elate – This is without question the star of the show, but will Mott have her ready to fire off of this long layoff? She hasn’t been seen since last November, and now she must run 1 1/4 miles off of an eight-month layoff. Mott is know for taking his time with horses, and we know that this spot is not her ultimate goal. With that in mind, perhaps this is the race when you take a shot against her and hope that she is not ready to fire her best. It took this filly a while to round into form last year, and she lost some races that she shouldn’t have. That could happen again this year, and at low odds, she might be a small play against.
#5 Unbridled Mo – 2018 has been an up-and-down year for her so far. She started off her season with a loss at Gulfstream Park in the Grade 3 Royal Delta Stakes, but then she rolled into Oaklawn Park next time out and upset Unique Bella in the Apple Blossom. That was her first Grade 1 victory, and she gave it another shot in the Ogden Phipps but showed little while beaten 9 lengths. This is a logical spot for her and serves as a nice drop down in class. If she gets back to her Apple Blossom form, then she should have a solid shot here, and the pace could set up well for a stalking type that will get first run on the leaders.
#9 Fuhriously Kissed – There is no doubt that this mare can make an impact underneath. If you need proof, just look at her past performances this year: third in the Apple Blossom and third in the Grade 3 DuPont Distaff. Both of those races seem similar to this one, and the distance will be something that she should handle pretty well. With all kinds of early speed signed on in this race, she should be picking up the pieces late. Her owner, Ron “Loooch” Paolucci, could pull an upset here if things set up perfectly.
#7 Farrell – This is one of the classiest horses in the race, but this setup does not look like it will be kind to her. She absolutely needs the lead, and there are several speed horses signed on to challenge her in this spot. Also, will the long distance be to her liking? She was caught when going shorter in her last two starts. If she gets out on her own, she is hard to catch, but it doesn’t look like that sort of trip will happen for her.
#1 Teresa Z – After starting off the year a bit slowly, this filly put it all together last time out with a nice win in the $100,000 Obeah Stakes, which serves as the local prep for this race. She stalked the early pace, then simply ran away from her competition down the lane to win by over 2 lengths. That type of win could set her up for success in this spot. The speed figure for that race came back okay, and with a repeat effort, she could be competitive with this group, and her pedigree suggests that 1 1/4 miles could be right up her alley.
#2 Sneaky Betty – There is no doubt that Betty could be sneaky here, as she has hit the board in all seven of her 2018 starts. However, this will be the toughest race of her career and only her second against stakes company. Her first start was the local prep race for this one, when she finished third behind Teresa Z.
#4 Proper Discretion – The good news is that she comes into this race off of two straight victories, but the bad news is that those wins came at shorter distances. The breeding suggests that she can’t go this far, and she will also be moving way up in class. The presence of other solid speed horses will make her job even more difficult, as she likes to get out in front.
#8 Nikki My Darling – Last year, she ended her season on fire with three straight blowout victories, but this year has been a struggle. She will need to show major improvement to have a shot.
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