The $750,000 Delaware H. (G1) has not been lacking in star power in recent years but, mirroring the dearth at the top of the older filly and mare division, has come up a bit light in marquee names for Saturday’s renewal.
Twice won by three-time champion Royal Delta and the stage in 2011 for Blind Luck’s thrilling stretch duel with eventual Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, the Del ‘Cap can sometimes be a tough ask for fillies and mares routinely unaccustomed to going as far as 1 1/4 miles. Even with a class advantage, one can easily be found out in that 10th furlong.
Sheer Drama is the probable favorite on the basis of her consistency this season. Although her March 21 victory in the Royal Delta (G2) at Gulfstream was by an emphatic 6 1/2 lengths, she’s finished second four other times, most recently in Churchill Downs’ La Troienne (G1) and Fleur de Lis H. (G2). A daughter of Burning Roma and out of a Notebook mare, both speed influences, her stamina will be put to the test here.
Frivolous, who upset Sheer Drama at odds of 32-1 in the Fleur de Lis, has not yet validated her form outside of Churchill Downs. That leaves Rosalind and Flashy American as perhaps the main threats to Sheer Drama.
Rosalind, dead-heat winner of the 2014 Ashland (G1) over Keeneland’s old Polytrack, seems to have found her calling on grass of late with a victory in the 1 3/8-mile Sheepshead Bay (G2) and a second in the Suwannee River (G3) earlier this year. She was only a distant fourth in the Ogden Phipps (G1) on dirt last time, but faces easier this time and should see out the trip.
Flashy American, third behind the front-running Belle Gallantey in this race a year ago, has not won since taking the Sixty Sails H. (G3) in April 2014, but the long-winded gray missed by a neck in both the Azeri (G2) and Iowa Distaff earlier this year, and the step up from 1 1/16 miles should suit her.
Fortune Pearl and Joint Return ran one-two in a soft renewal of the Delaware Oaks (G2) last year, but Joint Return got the better of that rival last time in the Obeah (G3) when finishing second while Fortune Pearl settled for fourth. Both fillies like to come from far back and thus will be at the mercy of a likely slow pace.
The field is completed by America, who took the Affectionately at Aqueduct on New Year’s Day but was up the track in the La Troienne and Fleur de Lis in her last two starts.
The $200,000 Kent (G3), for three-year-olds at nine furlongs on the turf, has just one past stakes winner among the field of eight. Chief Kitten took the $76,000 Pulpit at Gulfstream Park West last November, but has raced just twice this year, garnering minor checks in stakes at Gulfstream and Aqueduct.
Ready to step back into stakes company is Syntax, who defeated returning rival All I Karabout in an entry-level allowance at Belmont last month. The pair were fourth and third, respectively, in the May 16 James W. Murphy at Pimlico.
Looking to jump from maiden race winner to Grade 3 scorer in one leap are My Team, who upset a Preakness Day maiden at Pimlico in his turf debut, and the Chad Brown-trained Money Multiplier, a son of Lookin at Lucky who graduated on dirt in early May.
For mere $50,000 purses, the six-furlong Hockessin and the one-mile-and-70-yard Carl Hanford Memorial came up fairly tough. The Hockessin attracted Grade 1-placed stakes winner Fast Anna, Grade 2 veteran Bourbon Courage, and True North (G2) runner-up Stallwalkin’ Dude.
The Hanford Memorial features Grade 1-placed Normandy Invasion, second in his allowance comeback at Delaware July 1, and the multiple graded stakes-placed Page McKenney.
(Sheer Drama photo: Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography)