07/16/2001 11:00PM

Ward has tough either/or


Trainer John T. Ward Jr. said Tuesday that either Beautiful Pleasure or Darling My Darling will run in the $600,000 Delaware Handicap on Sunday, but not even he knows which one.

"That's Donna Ward's call," said Ward, referring to his wife and training partner. "I've told the Delaware folks that we'd all know by entry day."

Entries were to be drawn Wednesday for the 64th running of the Delaware Cap, the Grade 3 race that is the annual showcase event at Delaware Park. Besides Beautiful Pleasure or Darling My Darling, the field for the 1 1/4-mile race is expected to include such top fillies and mares as Jostle and Lady Melesi.

On June 23, Beautiful Pleasure, the 1999 Eclipse Award winner as top filly or mare, and Darling My Darling formed an odds-on entry in the Grade 1 Hempstead at Belmont, but both ran poorly to finish out of the money. Meanwhile, Jostle, who was ridden by Jerry Bailey, finished second by just a neck.

Bailey will ride Jostle again Sunday for owner Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farm and trainer John Servis. Porter lives in Delaware, so a victory in the state's richest race clearly would be meaningful to him.

"It would mean a lot to me just to win it for Mr. Porter," said Servis.

Jostle is scheduled to ship to Delaware Park from her home base of Philadelphia Park on Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, Ward said he was unsure of travel itineraries for either of his horses, "since we really haven't decided what we're going to do," he said.

Secret Status, the 2000 Kentucky Oaks winner who most recently ran second in the Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs, was under preliminary consideration for the Delaware Cap, but trainer Neil Howard apparently has settled on the Grade 1 Go for Wand Stakes at Saratoga on July 29 for her.

With Secret Status out, Pat Day will take the mount on Lady Melesi for trainer Rusty Arnold. Day has ridden the last two winners of the Delaware Cap: Tap to Music in 1999 and Lu Ravi in 2000.

Other possible starters for the race include Lazy Slusan, Humble Clerk, Irving's Baby, and Under the Rug.

The Delaware Cap, which dates to 1937, is the focus of easily the biggest weekend of the 140-day Delaware Park meet. Two supporting features, the $250,000 Kent Breeders' Cup Stakes and $75,000 Light Hearted Stakes, will be run Sunday. On Saturday, the Grade 3, $250,000 Delaware Oaks is the main attraction, supported by the $150,000 Robert Dick Memorial and $100,000 R.R.M. Carpenter Jr. Memorial.

In all, six stakes worth over $1.4 million will be run at Delaware this weekend.

Flute, Caressing top full Oaks field

The Saturday card was drawn Tuesday, and the fillies to beat in a terrific field of 14 in the Delaware Oaks are Flute, the 2001 Kentucky Oaks winner, and Caressing, the 2000 Eclipse Award winner as top 2-year-old filly.

Flute, with Bailey to ride for trainer Bobby Frankel, drew post 13 in the 1 1/16-mile race. Caressing, with Day to ride, drew post 4.

The Delaware Oaks is the eighth of 10 Saturday races. The Carpenter, which drew Broken Vow as a solid favorite in a field of six older horses, goes as race four. The Robert Dick, with a field of nine filly-mare turfers, is carded as race six.