How to Bet the 2019 Delaware Handicap

The top-two finishers from the recent Fleur de Lis Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs – Elate and Blue Prize – top a field of nine in Saturday’s lucrative $750,000 Delaware Handicap (G2). The 1 1/4-mile affair attracted some nice fillies and mares, but the race will go through this accomplished duo.

ANOTHER BROAD (#1) (10-1) – Obeah Stakes third draws the rail for trainer Todd Pletcher and will appreciate the added distance in this spot. The Include filly is a cut below the top guns in the affair, but she will save ground throughout beneath jockey Jorge Vergas Jr. The bay is four-for-five on a wet surface, so she moves forward with any moisture on the ground.

GOTHAM GALA (#2) (8-1) – The improving sort was a clear winner of the Obeah most recently in just her second two-turn race on the main oval. The Arnaud Delacour charge is getting good right now and distance shouldn’t pose a problem for the Smart Strike filly. Daniel Centeno rides.

ESCAPE CLAUSE (#3) (5-1) – This speedy sort missed by a nose in the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) two prior to prove her class. The Grade-3 winning Manitoba-bred mare might be the one to catch from this post beneath Tyler Baze if the horse to her inside doesn’t break swiftly.

QUEEN NEKIA (#4) (20-1) – Anthony Pecoraro trainee is ambitiously placed following a runner-up finish in a second-level allowance tilt at Laurel Park. The Harlington filly would be a huge shocker.

PROMISE OF SPRING (#5) (12-1) – Steve Margolis trainee has placed in a pair of Grade 3 events this campaign, and the chestnut might appreciate the added ground of this affair. The Kentucky-bred will have to get faster in a hurry to challenge for the top prize in this field, however, but she can pick up a piece late.

BLUE PRIZE (#6) (7-2) – Classy mare from the Ignacio Correas IV barn has superb form coming in for her third run of the season. The Argentine-bred daughter of Pure Prize was a strong second in the Fleur de Lis most recently, and she has been first or second in a fantastic 15 of 19 lifetime performances. Joe Bravo will guide the six-year-old.

ELATE (#7) (7-5) – Bill Mott trainee is the defending champion in the field coming off one of her better performances at Churchill Downs last out. The Medaglia d’Oro mare is two-for-two on this course and is tailor made for the 1 1/4-mile distance. Regular rider Jose Ortiz comes along to guide the robust mare.

VENTE TO GO (#8) (20-1) – Obeah fifth was all out to beat allowance foes going one mile here two races back. The El Padrino filly has never faced this kind and looks to be overmatched.

GOODONEHONEY (#9) (10-1) – Great Notion filly was runner-up in the Obeah and she has flashed nice potential more than one occasion. The Michael Moore trainee was done no favors drawing widest of all in the affair, and she will need marked improvement to be in the mix inside the final furlong here.

ANALYSIS

Gotham Gala and Escape Clause are the inside speed players, and they will be closely watched by Goodonehoney from the outside. The tempo will be moderate and the majority of the field will be within a few lengths of each other along the back side.

I expect Blue Prize and Joe Bravo to get the jump on favored Elate, setting up a thrilling duel inside the final furlong.

WAGER

$30 Exacta 6 with 7 = $30
$1 Superfecta 6, 7 with 6, 7 with 1, 2, 5 with all = $36

PHOTO: Elate (c) Coady Photography/Churchill Downs

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How to Bet the 2019 Mint Julep Stakes

The $125,000 Mint Julep Stakes (G3) will be run as Race 10 at Churchill Downs on Saturday afternoon. Contested at 1 1/16 miles on the turf course, it attracted a field of 10 older fillies and mares. The race appears to be a wide-open affair and you can make a strong case for several major contenders in the field.

Here’s a brief look at this year’s Mint Julep field:

COCO CHANNEL (#1) (30-1) takes a big step up in class while coming off losses in lesser spots. The five-year-old has ventured into graded competition before unsuccessfully. Her best shot in this spot would be for the race to come off the turf based on her close third-place finish in the Cardinal Stakes (G3) in late 2017, which was moved from turf to a sloppy, sealed main track.

SMART EMMA (#2) (8-1) exits a career-best outing last time in a big victory on this turf course in an $80,000 level optional claiming race. One can’t blame trainer Dan Peitz for taking a shot here with his confidence buoyed by the impressive victory.

MOM’S ON STRIKE (#3) (7-2) makes her 2019 debut in this spot after last being seen in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), where she finished eighth at 33-1 odds. That spot might have been too ambitious, but this kind of spot looks ideal for this multiple stakes winner who scored in last year’s Bewitch Stakes (G3) at Keeneland going 1 1/2 miles. The six-year-old mare has the talent and ability, but if she is favored she looks like a vulnerable chalk based on the seven-month layoff and based on the fact that this 1 1/16-mile distance is probably shorter than her best at this point of her career.

SHE’S PRETTY LUCKY (#4) (8-1) won a $100,000 level optional claiming turf race at 1 1/16 miles here at Churchill last out and shows a good-looking pattern of steadily improving form. She is versatile from a pace perspective and can be effective from on or off of the pace.

VAGABOND PRINCESS (#5) (12-1) makes her Churchill Downs turf debut off a pair of solid, but not spectacular, turf tries this winter at Fair Grounds and Gulfstream where she was third in the New Orleans Ladies Stakes and fourth in the Suwannee River Stakes (G3), respectively. The bay mare lost to repeat winner Beau Recall last time out, but will need to turn the tables on Mom’s On Strike, who had her number when the pair faced off a year ago at Fair Grounds.

SMART SHOT (#6) (8-1) nice win last time cemented her credentials as a Churchill turf horse for the course, giving her three wins in four career outings on this grass course. There is nothing not to like about the late-closing win last time, but she was not a factor when last risen up in class against stakes competition last year.

LIMARI (#7) (5-2) makes her stakes debut in this spot but lands in a winnable spot and has passed every test so far this year with a perfect three-for-three record in 2019. The dark bay filly goes to the front and goes all the way, and looms the best and perhaps controlling speed of this race. It will be difficult to deny her with anything close to her winning effort last out in an allowance at Keeneland for trainer Brad Cox.

STAVE (#8) (6-1) appears to be in good form now for trainer Larry Jones and beat one of these rivals, Phantom Opening, rather handily two races ago in a race here last fall. She lost to Smart Emma by four lengths last time and will need to turn the tables on her at least, but improvement could be on the way in the filly’s second race off the six-month layoff.

PROMISE OF SPRING (#9) (10-1) is mainly a dirt horse and possibly entered hoping for rain to move this contest to the main track. However, she also shows a solid turf outing on her resume when second back in January in the Marie G. Krantz Memorial Stakes at Fair Grounds. The dirt-to-turf stats are huge for trainer Steve Margolis, and Promise of Spring is fast enough to not be ignored no matter the surface.

PHANTOM OPENING (#10) (8-1) has been keeping good company of late with outings in the Hillsborough Stakes (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs and Jenny Wiley Stakes (G1) at Keeneland, but draws the far outside here and has come up short in past races when facing some of those entered here.

ANALYSIS

The key to his year’s Mint Julep could be the pace, since it seems like the morning-line favorite Limari owns a solid pace advantage over this field as the best and possibly only speed in the race. She exits a strong Keeneland allowance win with a fast BRIS Speed figure, and she’ll beat these as well if able to repeat that kind of an effort.

This race also can be played in exactas and trifectas by keying Limari over the other top challengers in the field. The so-called class horses in the field, Mom’s On Strike and Phantom Opening, look vulnerable and could be potential underlays on the tote board. Instead, focus your underneath betting on horses in good form with up-and-coming patterns heading into this race such as She’s Pretty Lucky and Promise of Spring. The Vagabond Princess is also too solid to be overlooked and shouldn’t be excluded.

WAGERS

Box 7 in the exactas with 4, 5, 9

Trifecta key 7 over 4, 5, 9 / 4, 5, 9

PHOTO: Limari wins an allowance at Keeneland on April 19, 2019 (c) Coady Photography/Keeneland

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