Betting for an Upset in the Delaware Handicap

Miss Marissa, shown winning the 2020 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, is Keeler Johnson’s upset pick in Saturday’s Delaware Handicap. (Eclipse Sportswire)

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.

weekend Television schedule

Friday, July 9: 1 p.m.-5:30 p.m. ET on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Saturday, July 10: 1 p.m.-3 p.m. on FS1; 3 p.m.-5:30 p.m. on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Sunday, July 11: 12:30 p.m.-4 p.m. on FS2; 4 p.m.-5 p.m. on FS1; post time varies on TVG

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 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

6 Miss Marissa
1 Gibberish
2 Queen Nekia
3 Dream Marie
5 Bonny South
  • Owner / Juddmonte
  • Breeder / Juddmonte Farms Inc
4 Saracosa

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