07/15/2010 12:27PM

Life at Ten tops Delaware Handicap

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The 5-year-old mare Life at Ten has been a late bloomer for trainer Todd Pletcher. But since she learned how to win, Life at Ten has been unbeatable.

After needing seven tries to clear her first allowance condition, Life at Ten has reeled off five consecutive victories since November while moving all the way up the class ladder to become a Grade 1 stakes winner in last month’s Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont Park. She will be favored to make it six in a row when she faces five other fillies and mares in Saturday’s Grade 2, $750,000 Delaware Handicap.

The 1 1/4-mile Del Cap, a Win and You’re In qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, tops a three-stakes card that includes the Grade 3, $200,000 Robert Dick Memorial for fillies and mares on turf and the $100,000, 1 1/16-mile R.R.M. Carpenter Stakes on the main track. A win by Life at Ten would enable Pletcher to tie the record of four Del Cap victories held by Hall of Famer Henry Clark, who won the race twice apiece with Endine (1958-59) and Obeah (1969-70).

Pletcher said early in her career, Life at Ten was probably miscast in a series of races on synthetic surfaces in California and Kentucky, followed by a pair of seven-furlong sprints on dirt at Saratoga.

“Some of her races were a little bit frustrating, but I think in retrospect we probably ran a few too many times on synthetic surfaces, which did not bring out her best,” Pletcher said. “Also a couple of times last year, we ran her a little bit short of her best distances. Once she got into a good stready rhythm and since we have been able to keep her at a nice series of longer races, she has really developed into what we were hoping she could be.”

Life at Ten’s chief competition figures to come from Funny Moon, a Christophe Clement-trained 4-year-old who won last year’s Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks at the 1 1/4-distance of the Del Cap and this spring’s Grade 2 Shuvee. She finished 2 3/4 lengths behind Life at Ten in the Phipps.

Miss Singhsix, who won last month’s 1 1/8-mile Obeah after shipping from Florida, and the Canadian-based Milwaukee Appeal, a million-dollar earner but winless in her last eight starts dating to June 2009, also merit respect.