Songbird. Royal Delta. Blind Luck. Fleet Indian. Those are just some of the most recent champions to win the $400,000 Grade 2 Delaware Handicap, a historic prize for fillies and mares first contested in 1937.
Held over 1 1/4 miles, the Delaware Handicap is significantly longer than most major dirt races for fillies and mares. And most handicappers figure to assume this added distance will benefit #5 Bonny South, the overwhelming 3-2 favorite on the morning line for Saturday's race.
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A Juddmonte Farms homebred conditioned by Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox, Bonny South is easily the most accomplished runner in the Delaware Handicap field. As a three-year-old in 2020, the daughter of Munnings put together a productive campaign, with a stretch-running victory in the Grade 2 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks ranking as her signature triumph. She also defeated future Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks winner Shedaresthedevil in an Oaklawn Park allowance race.
Bonny South has already proven her worth over 1 1/4 miles. In the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga last summer, Bonny South rallied with determination to finish second behind champion Swiss Skydiver, with Grade 1 winners Harvey’s Lil Goil and Crystal Ball farther back in the field. This effort produced a career-best 105 Brisnet Speed rating, suggesting extended distances aren’t a concern for the Delaware Handicap favorite.
Bonny South remains in strong form this season, kicking off the year with a tenacious triumph in the Grade 3 Baird Doubledogdare Stakes at Keeneland before finishing second in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Stakes behind Horse of the Year contender Letruska. Both of these races were held over 1 1/16 miles, so give Bonny South another three-sixteenths of a mile to work with, and she’ll surely be a major factor in the Delaware Handicap.
But is Bonny South unbeatable as the heavy favorite? Not necessarily. Her late-running style tends to place her at a tactical disadvantage against rivals with more early speed. Indeed, Bonny South has settled for second place in four of her last five starts, including the 1 1/8-mile Grade 2 George E. Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico last fall. And notably, Black-Eyed Susan winner #6 Miss Marissa is back for another try in the Delaware Handicap.
Miss Marissa ran a big race in the Black-Eyed Susan. Content to track solid early fractions of :23.10, :46.61, and 1:10.74 from second place, Miss Marissa swept to a clear lead in midstretch before digging deep to deny Bonny South by a neck, with Kentucky Oaks alum #3 Dream Marie settling for fifth place.
Dream Marie managed to turn the tables on Miss Marissa in the 1 1/16-mile Obeah Stakes at Delaware Park last month, the local prep for the Delaware Handicap. But I would argue Miss Marissa ran a winning race in defeat. On an afternoon when closers excelled and pacesetters were beaten in eight of nine races, Dream Marie tracked fast fractions of :23.07, :47.20, and 1:11.58 over a slow track before battling gamely to finish second by 1 3/4 lengths. Both Dream Marie and third-place finisher Market Rumor rallied from far behind, demonstrating the tiring nature of the early pace.
Indeed, Miss Marissa’s split for three-quarters of a mile (1:11.58) was the fastest of the afternoon in a route race; the second-fastest was just 1:13.62, and the day’s lone gate-to-wire winner clocked 1:15.01. Taking these challenging circumstances into account, it’s clear Miss Marissa ran a deceptively strong race.
The Obeah Stakes marked Miss Marissa’s first run since January, so with this prep run under her belt, she’s eligible to improve in the Delaware Handicap. A favorable pace scenario should unfold, as Miss Marissa figures to enjoy a perfect trip stalking #1 Gibberish through modest fractions. Hot jockey Daniel Centeno (a 25% winner at Delaware Park) retains the mount, so I’m optimistic Miss Marissa can maintain her advantage over Bonny South and spring a 6-1 surprise on Saturday.
Bettors playing on small budgets can consider betting Miss Marissa to win and playing her over Bonny South in a cold exacta. But if you have more capital and want to seek an even bigger score, why not add a trifecta ticket using Gibberish, #2 Queen Nekia, and #4 Saracosa for third place? Queen Nekia capitalized on a fast pace set by Gibberish to win the Grade 3 Royal Delta Stakes during the winter, while Saracosa was good enough to finish second in the 2020 Delaware Handicap.
Here’s how we recommend betting the race:
Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget
$8 to win on #6 Miss Marissa
What to say at the betting window: Delaware Park, 9th race, $8 to win on 6
$2 exacta: 6 with 5
What to say at the betting window: Delaware Park, 9th race, $2 exacta 6 with 5
Wagering Strategy on a $30 Budget
$12 to win on #6 Miss Marissa
What to say at the betting window: Delaware Park, 9th race, $12 to win on 6
$6 exacta: 6 with 5
What to say at the betting window: Delaware Park, 9th race, $6 exacta 6 with 5
$4 trifecta: 6 with 5 with 1,2,4 ($12)
What to say at the betting window: Delaware Park, 9th race, $4 trifecta 6 with 5 with 1,2,4
Good luck, and enjoy the race!
2021 Delaware H.
July 10th, 2021
- Owner / Cammarota Racing LLC
- Breeder / Woodford Thoroughbreds
- Owner / e Five Racing Thoroughbreds
- Breeder / Dell Ridge Farm, LLC
- Owner / Ken Copenhaver
- Breeder / Porter Racing Stable, LLC
- Owner / Miracle's International Trading, Inc.
- Breeder / Wynnstay LLC & GWR LLC
- Owner / Juddmonte
- Breeder / Juddmonte Farms Inc