Updated on 09/16/2011 7:49AM

Starrer may like the long-distance Del Cap


There is no shame in getting beaten six lengths by Azeri, especially considering the race in question came after a six-month layoff.

That's one reason trainer John Shirreffs - who took over the training of Starrer after the filly ended her 3-year-old campaign with a victory in the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap last December - believes the Delaware Handicap could be an ideal spot for Starrer.

"Obviously, Azeri is the best in the filly and mare division right now, so running third to her is no disgrace," said Shirreffs, referring to the June 22 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park. "She should benefit from that effort and improve."

Starrer, formerly trained by David Hofmans, shipped last weekend from Southern California to Delaware Park in Stanton, Del., where the $600,000 Delaware Handicap will be run Sunday for the 65th time. At 1 1/4 miles on dirt, the Grade 3 race is a rare opportunity for a filly or mare to earn graded type at such a long distance.

"Our biggest reason for running is the distance," said Shirreffs, noting that Starrer, a 4-year-old Dynaformer filly owned by George Krikorian, long has demonstrated a propensity for more distance. "I really think she should like the mile and a quarter."

The only other time Starrer shipped to the East Coast was nearly a year ago, when she was sent off the odds-on favorite in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont. But when the filly stumbled at the start, throwing jockey Chris McCarron, the cross-country journey ended up being a wasted one.

Shirreffs, 57, obviously is looking for a more productive trip this time. Starrer, to be ridden by Garrett Gomez, drew post eight in a field of 10 fillies and mares in the Del Cap.

Unlike some shippers who arrive a day or two before a major race, Starrer was at Delaware Park a full eight days before the Del Cap. Many Delaware horsemen, including perennial leading jockey Mike McCarthy, long have advocated a reasonable period of acclimation before a horse races at Delaware.

"We wanted to take some time to get used to the track and the weather," said Shirreffs, who previously trained star mares Manistique and Borodislew. "I've heard that it's a good idea to give your horse some work over this track, so we're doing that."

Starrer figures to be the second wagering choice behind topweighted Summer Colony in the Delaware Handicap, for which entries closed Tuesday. Post positions were drawn Wednesday at a press breakfast at the track.

From the rail, this is the field for the Delaware, with weights and riders:

Quiet Lake, 111, Harry Vega; Critical Eye, 113, Mike Luzzi; Unrestrained, 111, no rider; Summer Colony, 118, John Velazquez; Two Item Limit, 113, Jerry Bailey; Mountain Angel, 116, Jorge Chavez; Catch the Ring, 116, Mark Guidry; Starrer, 116, Gomez; Pompeii, 114, Pat Day; and Your Out, 113, Ramon Dominguez.

There will be a maximum of eight betting interests because of two stable couplings: the Edward Evans pair of Unrestrained and Summer Colony will wear saddlecloth numbers 1 and 1A, respectively, and the Sam-Son Farm entry of Mountain Angel and Catch the Ring will wear 2 and 2B.

Summer Colony, a winner of 7 of 15 starts and just over $500,000, has the distinct honor of defeating Azeri, which she did at Santa Anita in February in the La Canada Stakes. Since moving from turf to dirt last summer, Summer Colony has been absolutely brilliant for trainer Mark Hennig, having finished first or second in all nine of her starts.

The live running of the Delaware Handicap and a replay of the $250,000 Kent Breeders' Cup Stakes will be the focus of a one-hour show Sunday on ESPN2. Coverage begins at 5 p.m. Eastern, with Del Cap post set for 5:35.

The two-day Delaware Handicap Festival starts Saturday with three stakes: the $250,000 Delaware Oaks, $150,000 Robert Dick Memorial, and $100,000 R.R.M. Carpenter Jr. Memorial.

On Sunday, the Kent BC and the $75,000 Light Hearted Stakes are the main undercard features.

:: FREE Delaware Handicap Past Performances - The Delaware Handicap is one this week's DRF.com Races of the Week. Get free past performances and Thorograph Sheets on each week's featured races - !