07/16/2013 2:20PM

Dick Jerardi: Delaware Park offers best of racing memories

Barbara D. Livingston
Royal Delta will go for a repeat victory in the Delaware Handicap, restored this year to Grade 1 status.

When I first became a regular at the Maryland tracks in the mid-1970s, Delaware Park was really the fourth wheel on the mile circuit. It would be Bowie in the winter, Pimlico in the spring, Delaware Park in the summer, and Laurel in the fall, with a little Timonium thrown in to the mix for reasons that have never been entirely clear.

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Can’t count all the trips I made up I-95 to go to Delaware Park. Terrific racing. Wonderful grass course. Old-school paddock. Classic grounds.

There are just a few race tracks I absolutely love. Delaware Park is on the list.

They will run the Delaware Handicap on Saturday. I am not sure of the first Del Cap I saw, but I think it was 1977 when Calumet’s Our Mims won. I did not see Susan’s Girl, Obeah, Politely, Flower Bowl, or Busanda, but I have no memory of the last Del Cap I missed. And I won’t be missing this one when Royal Delta goes for a repeat as the track’s marquee race gets its Grade 1 status back.

I so wish we all had been able to see Obeah’s greatest daughter go for the 1991 Del Cap. You just know Christiana’s ill-fated Go for Wand would have been there representing the home team.

The only race I have seen live I would compare with the 2011 Del Cap stretch duel between Blind Luck and eventual Horse of the Year Havre de Grace was the 1989 Preakness between Sunday Silence and Easy Goer.

Don’t remember who was running on a summer Sunday in 1985 when I ended a 30-hour gambling odyssey at Del Park by trying to get out on an Arabian race.

Started the previous day with a trip to Monmouth Park to watch Spend a Buck get upset in his first race since that memorable Jersey Derby. Went down the Garden State Parkway to Atlantic City for the Matchmaker that night. Spent the night in a few of the Atlantic City casinos playing blackjack and craps.

I don’t remember how the Arabian did, but I doubt it went well.

No matter. All trips to Delaware Park are good trips.

It has been like that since 1937 when the track opened. It was a very sad day when the track closed in 1982. But it reopened a few years later and I remember tossing a whole bunch of money at the twin tri.

Then, the slots came and Delaware Park was back in a big, if different way.

No matter. Times change, but the essence of the Delaware Park never really changes.

You are at the track where Afleet Alex and Barbaro got their starts. You are at the track that hosted the first $100,000 race for fillies and mares (the 1953 version of the Del Cap). You are the track where the years change, but the faces never do.

It is old. It is familiar. It is charming. It is Delaware Park.

Chips to commemorate races

Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races is going to issue a new set of $25 gaming chips to commemorate the track’s three marquee racing events – the Grade 2, $1.5 million Charles Town Classic, the Race for the Ribbon card, which is on Sept. 21 and includes two $400,000 stakes (the Charles Town Oaks and Researcher), and the West Virginia Breeders’ Classics XXVII on Oct. 19.

“Issuing the chips commemorating the three events that have come to define our racing program provided us with a unique opportunity,” said Erich Zimny, vice president of racing operations at Charles Town. “It’s not only a mechanism to increase awareness of these days, but also to bridge the racing and gaming customers.”

◗ John Bisono has been leading the jockeys’ race at Parx all year, but four-time champion Kendrick Carmouche just caught him. Each had 80 winners and $2.5 million in earnings at the track in mid-July.

◗ John Locke and Tim Kreiser have separated from the pack in the Penn trainer standings. Halfway through the year, Locke leads by two, 50-48, because of his power in numbers. Locke has his 50 wins from 293 starters, while Kreiser has won 48 races from just 158 starters.

Jim More than 1 year ago
I and my friends spent many a Saturday at Delaware Park and I saw the, first ever, Sunday racing card there. I agee that the track and grounds are scenic. However, the racing is below par. The amount of money gained by the state from slots and table games should allow for first class racing. My wife and I spend Preakness day in the Terrace Dining room and wager on the Pimlico card from there. The Delaware program includes small fields of slow horses. Two years ago, a wet turf course and scratches cause them to card a race with 3 entrants. Most of the connections are verly low percentage. Riders who are 3 for 80 and trainers who are 0 for 35 are typical of the Preakness day card. The Arabian races are a dismal handicapping opportunity on the last race where many of us are "looking to get out". Hope they upgrade the fields in the near future to keep this iconic facility moving forward. JIMPEREGOY
joseph More than 1 year ago
I remember Spectacular Bid prepping in an allowance race at Delaware Park in his first start after the Belmont with Shoe up. It was quite a spectacle, his turn of foot that day was amazing beating a C.T. shipper named J.D. May by some 20 lengths in hand. Still hard to believe he didn't complete the triple, we have seen one or two of his like since, Point Given and Ghostzapper, that's it, that's the list of truly great horse since Bid was on the scene.
ghost2_ More than 1 year ago
Bid was great, true, but you really think John Henry, Cigar, Azeri, Zenyatta, and Curlin weren't?
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
this is also the track that an unknown jockey named Ramon Dominguez got his start and became one of the greatest jockeys of all time!
Ann Ferland More than 1 year ago
Timonium is the site of the Maryland State Fair and like many traditional fairs, it has horse racing. These days, most fairs that have racing have standardbreds - Ah, the Franklin County fair of Ohio, where most of the competitors are farmers with a couple of horses on the side and where even the pacers break stride. Good chuckles had by all, but you wouldn't want to bet on anything!
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
Memories the key word. This track is awful. Too many east coast. Parx another who needs to start giving back and not keep it in the circle. I live 5 mins and cant go because every Saturday I cant play a Tri. Flooded with unplayable races. We want scores. IE. 30k tri's like WB. I play where the plate is set not empty.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Saw Forego parade there under silks shortly after his retirement. A great day and would never forget it.
Gary Peacock More than 1 year ago
Hahaha.....I'm sure that Arabian race didn't go well, Mr. J. I found myself in the same boat on more than one occasion during that same time period. Nothing worse! lol A far cry from the same scheme was called "Go home with Culmone," referencing what many hoped to be the easy getaway "sure-thing" in the late 1950's / early 60's. I was about ten year's old, Delaware was the only track admitting children, and that mantra was a particular favorite of one of my father's cohorts. Give me Steve Brooks or Buck Thornburg. A Golden Age.
Bruce Epstein More than 1 year ago
These old beautiful tracks are a wonderful day spent out seeing racing in person. Del , the original Rockingham and the original Longacres were a perfect day out in the sun watching a great day of racing. Now. look at the new GP, no box's no place to sit. OH, I forgot Tampa Bay, nice old track as well.
Amy Hurley More than 1 year ago
Got to agree with you, Dick, I love going to Del. Park. Since I can't make it to Saratoga very often anymore, Delaware makes a great substitute. That stretch duel between Blind Luck and Havre de Grace was a classic. Neither mare deserved to lose. Anyway, I'll certainly be back there on Sat., and will probably see you in the paddock.
Marvin Friedman More than 1 year ago
the place is a real treasure in the state of Delaware, thank you Dick for your annuel DelPark homage , it never gets old , hearing people express the same sentiments as many Delawareans have for the track.history aside , and there is plenty, we will never see architechur like that again , DelPark is living history ,its like walking into a time warp,the same rythms today as the always have been ...long live Delaware Park