07/18/2012 3:13PM

Delaware Park: Royal Delta and Awesome Maria meet again in Delaware Handicap

Tom Keyser
Awesome Maria will be out to give trainer Todd Pletcher his fifth Delaware Handicap victory.

Last year’s champion 3-year-old filly, Royal Delta, and five-time graded stakes winner Awesome Maria will resume their rivalry in Saturday’s Grade 2 Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park.

The $750,000 Delaware Handicap is part of the Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In series, guaranteeing the winner a berth into thie fall’s Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic.

The Del Cap, at 1 1/4 miles on dirt the premier event of Delaware’s season, attracted a field of seven fillies and mares when entries were finalized Wednesday afternoon. Although Awesome Maria trounced Royal Delta when they met going 1 1/16 miles in the Grade 3 Sabin in Feburary, Delaware’s morning line lists Royal Delta as the 7-5 favorite. Awesome Maria, whose string of six consecutive stakes victories was snapped when she finished third in the May 30 Ogden Phipps Handicap, is the close second choice at 9-5.

As the 124-pound highweight, Royal Delta must concede three pounds to Awesome Maria and between six to 12 pounds to her other opponents.

Trainer Todd Pletcher will seek a record-breaking fifth Delaware Handicap victory with his uncoupled entry of Awesome Maria and Love and Pride (10-1), the winner of the local Del Cap prep, the Obeah. Pletcher, whose most recent Del Cap victory came in 2010 with Life At Ten, is tied with Hall of Fame trainer Henry Clark, who won the race twice with Endine in 1958 and 1959, and twice more with Obeah in 1969 and 1970.

Third choice in Saturday’s field is Pachattack at 6-1. A Grade 3 winner on Polytrack, Pachattack finished second in last year’s 1 1/4-mile Alabama in her only start on a fast dirt track in her 28-race career.

Tiz Miz Sue (12-1) has 4 wins and 2 seconds in 6 starts at Delaware. She won the Grade 3 Azeri at Oaklawn Park in March.

The front-running 4-year-old Cash for Clunkers (8-1) finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of Awesome Maria as the Phipps runner-up in her graded stakes debut.

The field is completed by Daring Reality (15-1), a Parx-based 4-year-old who is 1 for 11 over the past two seasons.