05/14/2013 12:38PM

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

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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.

Patricia Doyle More than 1 year ago
Twas a time when all one had to do was stand in front of the gate of any race track in the Nation and yell Kelso. Crowds of fans would flock to the gates eagerly holding their dollar and quarter anxious to get a glimpse of the great Kelso racing. Where are these horses now? The match races? We need champions to bring in the crowds. Forget the slots, bring back racing in its glory.
Mike Miller More than 1 year ago
Another year of the smallest fields in the region. The track that started Sunday racing no longer offers it to entice workers during the week or families. Just another casino with a racetrack as an excuse for legislation. Track has fired almost all of the good employees from the racing side. Still beautiful and charming. I agree the management is got to be the worst in America.
KataRackz31 More than 1 year ago
Average 7.7 horses per race before scratches (8 races plus 1 arabian race) for opening day. Yawn.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Many of us, in our cynical put down of some lesser tracks, can forget the origin of when our passion for horse racing was first ignited. Time changes things, racing is not the same, tracks change, and with some of the luster lost, it's easy to see things after so many years in simply a handicapping pari mutual wagering experience. But, as each of us have our individual experience, that origin can have a different meaning from what we see today. It was at Delaware Park that my passion was ignited around 1970 when my parents dragged me as a young teenager for a 3 hour drive to watch horses run around a track for the first time. A horrible thought for a 14 year old. Things quickly changed. It was the greatest thing I had ever seen in my life. I was smitten, biten by the bug and it became a part of me. Jerardi noticed something that many have not. He noticed the beauty of it all no matter where that is. The grove at the paddock is a beautiful thing. The trees there are now more than 40 years older than when I first saw them. I can remember every detail of that day, and even today, it remains one of those great days.The old fashioned open air grandstand, those old thick paper tickets, the 2 dollar and ten dollar windows, and the old style program. And watching those races and rooting for your horse, the grandness and beauty of it all. It was at Delaware Park that I first saw Spectacular Bid race as a two year old. He would not lose again until the Belmont, and yes I was there for that as well. It was at Delaware Park that in 1978 I would again make a lone 3 hour drive to see Forego parade not long after his retirement. The large crowd buzzing just to watch him jog under silks past the grandstand. Throngs of people crowded at the winners circle holding cameras over their heads trying to get that one good picture of him. They gave away hats that day to commemorate his retirement visit. I still have that hat. Sometime when you go to your local track and you see a father with a young teenage son or daughter, remember you may be seeing someone who is seeing things differently than you are. You may be seeing a 14 old who is about to become the newest member of a new generation of racing fan, who may one day go on to be an avid racing fan, an owner and breeder, and maybe some of the luster will come back.
michael More than 1 year ago
Great another summer of 4/5 Ness supertrained horses. With Lake next in line.
Lise McLain More than 1 year ago
Hi! Delaware Park is where Barbaro got his start and then went on to win the 2006 Kentucky Derby. It was Barbaro that got me started in becoming a horse racing fan, and I have been ever since. Thank you! Lise from Maine
Bob More than 1 year ago
Lisa word of advice. Stay a fan not a gambler. Not a chance in the world to win in this game. People talk like they have tomorrow's newspaper. You may win a race or two but everyone gets buried in the long run.
richard cowles More than 1 year ago
They have to have some thing to write about.so hey ho this is it?
Eric Von Zipper More than 1 year ago
This scribe loves the small fields at Delaware. He's a chalk player and likes to boast about his winning %.
Jewey More than 1 year ago
lucy's bob boy skipped the big race at CT. The horse is nothing until it ships or runs against some decent competition.
long_shot_alert More than 1 year ago
Boy , you guys at DRF are really insecure...among other things