07/18/2010 11:18AM

Life at Ten cruises to victory in Delaware Handicap


STANTON, Del. - Nobody went with Life At Ten early, so nobody was going to catch her late.

Unchallenged through soft early fractions under John Velazquez, Life At Ten cruised to a three-length victory Saturday, giving trainer Todd Pletcher his record-tying fourth victory in the Grade 2, $750,000 Delaware Handicap.

In winning her sixth consecutive race and third graded stakes, Life At Ten earned an automatic berth in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic this fall at Churchill Downs.

The 5-year-old Life At Ten ($3.20), the favorite in a field of six fillies and mares, set modest fractions of 24.98 seconds, 49.75, 1:14.01, and 1:38.39 en route to a three-length victory over Florida shipper Miss Singhsix. It was another 2 3/4 lengths back to Funny Moon, who outfinished Milwaukee Appeal by a neck for third.

Life At Ten completed 1 1/4 miles in 2:03.21 while improving her record to 7 for 14 lifetime.

"On paper it looked like she was controlling the speed, but you never know," Pletcher said. "She was fortunate to get an easy first quarter and half and she really had a lot left in the stretch."

Life At Ten received a 98 Beyer Speed Figure, the lowest number for a Del Cap victor since Amarillo's 96 in 1998.

Pletcher said he considers it a nice achievement to win the Delaware Handicap for the fourth time since 2001, tying Hall of Fame trainer Henry Clark, who won the race twice with Endine in 1958-59 and Obeah in 1969-70.

"It is just special to win the Delaware Handicap because it is such an important race for fillies and mares," Pletcher said. "We have always looked at the Del Cap as a great opportunity. It has a great tradition and great purse, and we have been fortunate enough to win the race four times."

Pletcher previously won the Delaware Handicap in 2001 with Irving's Baby, in 2006 with Fleet Indian, and in 2007 with Unbridled Belle.

Velazquez, who won the 2002 Del Cap aboard Summer Colony, enjoyed a 4-for-4 day at Delaware, including the Grade 3 Robert Dick Memorial in the race prior to the Delaware Handicap.

Pletcher said his next target for Life At Ten will likely be the Personal Ensign on Aug. 29 at Saratoga.

Pletcher took a calculated risk by not giving Life At Ten a prep over Delaware's main track. His three previous Delaware Handicap winners all either won or ran well in the Grade 3 Obeah, Delaware's local prep for the Delaware Handicap.In contrast, Indian Vale, fifth as the 4-5 favorite in 2007, and La Reason, sixth at 3-1 in 2006, did not have a local race under their belts prior to running poorly in the Delaware Handicap.

Pletcher chose to skip last month's Obeah with Life At Ten in favor of the Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont Park, a Grade 1 race that she led wire to wire to win by 2 3/4 lengths.

"We just felt like for her resume the Grade 1 opportunity in the Ogden Phipps was the right choice, so it worked out," Pletcher said. "It showed her versatility to win around one turn and then come here and stretch out to a mile and a quarter with two turns is a really good feeling."

Pletcher said that early in her career, Life At Ten was probably miscast in a series of races on synthetic surfaces in California and Kentucky. That's why it took her seven tries to finally clear her first allowance condition.

"We were a little bit frustrated with her earlier in her career because we saw a lot of ability in her training and she wasn't quite producing," Pletcher said. "Once we got her stretched out on the dirt, I think the real key was getting her off the synthetic tracks and onto the dirt."

Dick: Treat Gently draws away

English import Treat Gently needed five tries over a seven-month span to secure her first graded stakes win in North America. Now that she has the hang of it, the 5-year-old Treat Gently just might keep soaring to even greater glory.

Based in New York with trainer Bill Mott after beginning her career by running seven times in France, where she was a Group 2 winner, Treat Gently made it back-to-back graded stakes victories when she came from slightly off the pace to win the Grade 3, $201,750 Robert Dick Memorial Handicap on Saturday at Delaware Park.

Ridden for the first time by Velazquez, Treat Gently ($5.40), the second choice in a field of 10 fillies and mares, drew clear in deep stretch to win by 1 1/4 lengths over A She's Adorable, winner of last month's local prep for the Dick, the John Rooney Memorial. Ainamaa, who set the pace for the first mile as a 37-1 outsider, held on for third, three-quarters of a length behind the runner-up.

Gozzip Girl, a three-time graded stakes winner as a 3-year-old last season, was fourth as the 3-2 favorite.

Trainer Graham Motion, bidding for his seventh victory in the Dick, never came close as Rcuandry finished last at 13-1.

Treat Gently, making her first start since winning the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay on May 22 at Belmont Park, completed 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:19.02. It was three seconds slower than Caprice's winning time in last year's race.

Mott, speaking by phone from New York, said next month's Beverly D. at Arlington Park and a pair of fall stakes, the Flower Bowl at Belmont Park and the E.P. Taylor at Woodbine, are among the possibilities for Treat Gently the rest of the season.

Velazquez, who won the 2006 running of the Dick aboard Honey Ryder, said he succeeded in keeping the horse he feared most, Gozzip Girl, bottled up to his inside. A She's Adorable, second throughout most of the race under Anna Napravnik, stuck her head in front at the eighth pole, but Treat Gently rallied from third and surged clear to the wire.

Mott said Treat Gently has improved since learning to relax early.

"She has settled nicely in her last couple of races," Mott said. "She's been very kind. Now the goal is to get her to win a Grade 1 if we can."

Carpenter: Sir Whimsey rallies

Sir Whimsey, winless in 10 starts since taking the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap in March 2008, went from last to first to win Saturday's $100,000 R.R.M. Carpenter Jr. Memorial Stakes at Delaware Park.

Sent off as the 8-5 favorite in a field of five older horses, Sir Whimsey ($5.40) was ridden for the first time by Alan Garcia. The 1 1/16-mile Carpenter was Sir Whimsey's second start following a one-year layoff. In his comeback for trainer Steve Asmussen, the 5-year-old Sir Whimsey, now 5 for 24 lifetime, finished second in the Skip Away at Monmouth Park. The horse who finished 3 3/4 lengths behind him, Gone Astray, returned to win the Grade 3 Salvator Mile at Monmouth.

Garcia guided Sir Whimsey, last for the first half-mile, four wide coming into the turn for home. Sir Whimsey took a half-length lead with a furlong remaining and finished two lengths clear of runner-up Edgewater after completing the distance in 1:43.09. Alma d'Oro, trained by Todd Pletcher, did well to finish third, a half-length behind Edgewater, after stumbling at the start under John Velazquez.

Our Edge, a Nick Zito-trained 4-year-old who came into the race 2 for 2 at Delaware, including last year's Grade 3 Barbaro, set fractions of 23.08 seconds, 46.42, and 1:10.54, but faded to fourth in the stretch.