05/14/2013 11:38AM

Dick Jerardi: Opening day at Delaware Park hard to beat for atmosphere

Tom Keyser
The 7-year-old Win Willy is back at Delaware Park, where he has won three stakes and could surpass $1 million in career earnings this season.

If you are not at Pimlico on Saturday for the Preakness, you could not find a much better place to be than Delaware Park for opening day. The paddock and the Grove, enveloped by trees and old school in every way, are impossible to resist. As the 76th meet begins, it is comforting to know that the track’s signature race, the Delaware Handicap, has been returned to much-deserved Grade 1 status for the first time since 1989.

The $750,000 Del Cap, for older fillies and mares at 1 1/4 miles, will be run July 20. It is hoped that Royal Delta will be back to defend her 2012 Del Cap title.

Some serious trainers will be at the meeting, which is scheduled to run through Oct. 7. They include Jamie Ness, Mac Robertson, Juan Vazquez, Tim Ritchey, Scott Lake, Michael Pino, Jonathan Sheppard, and Graham Motion.

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“We are going to have about 55 horses at Delaware Park,” Robertson said. “We are going to have a lot of 2-year-olds this season. A lot of my horses got claimed here last year, so I got a lot of 2-year-olds for this season. I have about 50 2-year-olds, so I will split them evenly between my three divisions at Arlington, Canterbury, and here. I want nice young horses. Everyone wants a nice 2-year-old that can run, so we are hoping we can come up with a few that can really run.”

Robertson also will have the amazing 7-year-old Win Willy, who is just shy of $1 million in 31 starts, including 10 wins, four at Delaware, three of them in stakes.

“The horses really do good here,” Robertson said. “They eat well here, and the track has a nice relaxed atmosphere. The dirt track was in great shape last year, there is a turf gallop, and there is grass to graze on. It is a pretty horse-friendly track, probably one of the most horse-friendly tracks in the country.”

Vazquez was leading trainer at Delaware in 2010 and 2011 before finishing second to Ness in 2012. Vasquez is going to have 60 or so horses at the track.

“I have been coming to Delaware Park since 2001,” Vazquez said. “This is my house, so I certainly want to do well.”

He will have to do very well if he is going to unseat Ness, who is closing in on 100 wins nationally in 2013 and pretty much owned the 2012 Delaware standings with 57 wins and 35 percent winners.

Ben’s Cat takes another crack at McKay Turf Sprint

The Black-Eyed Susan Stakes may be the centerpiece of Friday’s Pimlico card, but the horse of the day will be Ben’s Cat, running in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint and going for his 16th stakes win.

Ben’s Cat suffered one of his worst losses in the 2012 McKay when fifth. You wondered if maybe the 6-year-old had finally lost it. Not exactly. Ben’s Cat proceeded to win four stakes the rest of 2012 and started off 2013 the same way he starts every year by winning the Mister Diz Stakes.

Armstrong keeps winning

Jack Armstrong has been among the most consistent winning owners at Parx Racing for years. Since 2001, his horses have won 425 races and earned $7 million. In 2012, the stable had its first $1 million year.

Armstrong’s horses are always well managed. If they look live, they usually are.

Lucy’s Bob Boy dominates at Charles Town

It got lost on the night of the Charles Town Classic, but the local hero dominated in a way even Game On Dude could not do.

Lucy’s Bob Boy won an undercard stakes by five lengths that night and just won again May 10. He has won 10 of his last 11 and 12 of 15 (with three seconds) lifetime. A 4-year-old West Virginia-bred, Lucy’s Bob Boy has been 1-10 in each of his last four starts.

Kreiser having career year

Tim Kreiser has been a consistently winning trainer for 15 years. He is having an off the charts 2013 at Penn National. He is 30 for 105 (30 percent) with $664,016 in earnings through mid-May. His horses have finished in the top three an incredible 75 percent of the time.

The trainer brought the terrific Tiempo Libre to Parx on May 12. The horse won by nearly 10 lengths, getting his third consecutive 90-plus Beyer Speed Figure since Kreiser claimed him for Joe Besecker on Feb. 7 for $7,500.