Photo: Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club
Not that we in horse racing like to complain or anything, but I see plenty of gripes come in when a graded stakes race does not attract the kind of field thought to be worthy of the grading; how about a little love when a stakes race draws a field much better than expected? Wednesday’s Hockessin Stakes at beautiful Delaware Park is a wonderful example. The six furlong affair may only carry a $50,000 purse, but it has drawn an absolutely loaded field of a dozen. Here are my favorites of the bunch, listed in my personal handicapping preference...
Immortal Eyes - 5-1 and the third choice on the morning line, the popular nine-year-old gelding is a true sprint warrior. The winner of 19-of-50 lifetime is also more than just a Charles Town specialist, as evidenced by his big victory in the $350,000 Frank J. DeFrancis Memorial Dash last fall at Laurel Park (pictured above). The son of Greatness comes in off his best season to date, and after a pair of solid efforts at Charles Town this year, he will make his first start for new owner/trainer David Jacobson. If you are unfamiliar with this millionaire, tomorrow will be a good time to start following his already remarkable career.
Picko’s Pride - Horses for courses, and at Delaware Park, that means even more than some tracks. Certain horses just love the place, and this one would seem to fit the bill. He’s a good sprinter anywhere, but he sports an excellent 7-4-2-0 record at this oval. In fact, thanks to a DQ in his favor in 2012, he is trying to win his third straight Hockessin. This might be the toughest edition yet (that’s kind of the point of this article), but at 6-1 on the morning line, he offers excellent value.
Bandbox - Truth be told, I’ve always had a soft spot for this gray son of Tapit. He’s had his share of setbacks along the way, but he still has the talent to be very, very good on his best days. Six furlongs might be a bit short for him, but if the speed knocks each other out a bit, look for him to be picking up the pieces late just like he did so well two starts back while rolling in the Grade 3 General George. He also offers nice morning line odds at 8-1.
The best of the rest include: Royal Currier is the 7-2 morning line favorite, and it is hard to knock the hard-knocking six-year-old. He has run big against a lot of good horses over the years, and also is relatively new to the David Jacobson barn. At five-years-old, Service for Ten, is one of the young bucks in the field. Remember what I said about Bandbox picking up the pieces late? Well, if not him then look for this one to be the main beneficiary of a blistering and contentious early pace. King Henry and Evolution Rocks may not have the back class of the ones listed before them, but the top two from the Penn Dash are consistent sorts, and they come into tomorrow’s clash in excellent form.
And those are only my top seven. All told, this field has accounted for about 50 stakes wins. Not bad for a Wednesday at Delaware Park ... Do yourself a favor and tune in tomorrow to the Hockessin Stakes tomorrow at Delaware Park, because they don’t make many $50,000 races like this anymore.