07/16/2013 1:20PM

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.