Analysis: Elate's 'B' effort good enough in Delaware Handicap

July 11, 2019 02:01pm
For those planning to go against Elate in Saturday's Grade 2, $750,000 Delaware Handicap, unfortunately this does not look like the right race. While this star mare has posted speed figures below her best form this season, the last number she earned is good enough to win against this average group.

But to get the negatives out of the way, Elate does not appear as sharp. Last year, she earned TimeformUS speed figures of 122 and 131 before going on the shelf.

To recap Elate’s current year, she started off by running a somewhat flat second in the Azeri Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park with a 112.

What made this effort even more disappointing is that she had dead aim on Shamrock Rose in the stretch and took forever to get by, while division leader Midnight Bisou found a path inside and had no problem passing both of them.

Without a doubt, Midnight Bisou is talented. But other than the layoff, Elate had little excuse to not make the finish closer than one length.

Perhaps Elate needed one race to get back into the flow.

Elate made her second start off the bench in the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1), and once again she looked flat in her third-place finish. At least her TimeformUS figure improved to a 117, but she never looked like a major threat.

This time Elate saved some ground on the turn before tipping out on the turn, taking clear aim on Escape Clause and Midnight Bisou.

But Elate failed to join them, and she even began to lose a length or two.

In addition to needing a few races, Elate perhaps wanted more distance, and she got that in the 1 1/8-mile Fleur de Lis (G2) June 15 at Churchill Downs.

Elate saved ground again on the turn and tipped out in the stretch, the same good scenario she enjoyed in the Apple Blossom when she lost.

But Elate got the job here, possibly because she faced weaker horses. However, the win did not come easily as Jose Ortiz urged Elate hard several times on the right side. Elate needed everything to mow down Blue Prize and She's a Julie, and only earned a 119 on TimeformUS. 

Regardless, that is still good enough to win the Delaware Handicap, as no other filly in this field ran a 119 or higher on TimeformUS in her last race.

Escape Clause earned a 121 when she finished second in the Apple Blossom, but it is questionable whether she can duplicate it after her dull Ogden Phipps (G1) effort. All the traveling possibly caught up with her.

Blue Prize earned a 119 when she finished third in the La Troienne (G1) at Churchill Downs, but it received the “C” designation. According to TimeformUS, the "C" label means that "t
rack conditions can change drastically during a card, usually due to weather, and the figures for the race are primarily based on only the horses in this one race."

Furthermore, none of the fillies and mares in this field are more trustworthy at 1 ¼ miles than Elate, who won this race by 3 ¼ lengths last summer.

Blue Prize enjoys a longer distance, but she already lost to Elate last time. Why would they reverse positions if Elate fired at a preferred distance?

As for the rest of the field, for what it is worth, the rail filly Another Broad did not receive a good pace in the local prep for this race, the Obeah Stakes. On paper, the fractions do not appear slow as Gotham Gala took them through 23.68 and 47.86 fractions. But study the chart and it will become clear the first four horses stayed in their positions for the most part, signaling the pace was too slow.

Either that, or the track favored speed, because the Obeah was a classic merry-go-round situation that gave the closers no chance.

Another mare to point out is Promise of Spring, who ran evenly in her two dirt starts this year with a runner-up finish in the Bayakoa Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn and a ho-hum third in the Doubledogdare Stakes (G3) at Keeneland. Given her sire Drosselmeyer and damsire Mineshaft, she might improve at 1 ¼ miles. But that is only a guess based on pedigree.

Out of the longer prices, those are the only two that looked interesting.

If Elate doesn't fire for whatever reason, Escape Clause can slip away with an easy lead and hold off Elate and Blue Prize, or Blue Prize will win by default without Elate taking aim at her late.

After all, in horse racing anything can happen. If a four-horse field was set up with a 1-9 shot, it is possible the 1-9 shot can finish fourth.

But Elate gets her favorite distance, and it seems probable her “B” game can still get the job done, especially if she improves with the added ground. Plus, this is her fourth start off the bench, a new angle to consider for her.

I'm not a fan of Elate’s constant low price and high popularity, but if anything unusual happens, the four horses to consider are Escape Clause and Blue Prize with Another Broad and Promise of Spring as lesser options. The latter two are more suitable underneath.

There is nothing wrong though with watching a star mare without betting, either, if you're not focused on the multi-race wagers. There must be easier stands to make Saturday than going against Elate.


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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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