The name of past local winners reads like a litany of who’s who in the history of horse racing and is a testament to the deep roots enjoyed by the sport on the eastern shore of Maryland, in southeastern Pennsylvania and in southern New Jersey and Delaware.
William duPont’s Foxcatcher Farm, the founder of Delaware Park, won the first Del ‘Cap ever in 1937 with Rosenna and followed with a victory in 1955 with Parlo. Donald P. Ross’ Brandywine Stable, who campaigned the 1962 Preakness winner Greek Money, won the race in 1944 with Everget and then again in 1966 with Open Fire. Jane and Harry Lunger’s Christiana Stable, who raced the famed Linkage in the early 1980s and brilliant filly Go For Wand in the early 1990s, won the race a record four times, twice with Endine in 1958 and 1959 and then with the dam of Go For Wand, Obeah, in 1969 and 1970. Mrs. Allaire duPont’s Bohemia Stable, who campaigned five-time Horse of the Year Kelso (1960 to 1964), notched a Del ‘Cap victory in 1968 with Politely and in 1991 with Crowned.
More recently, Billy Turner, the trainer of the 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, won the race in 1995, when the race only carried a purse of $150,000, with Night Fax and was quoted by the media as saying “this is a race I have always wanted to win,” because of his roots in the area. H. Graham Motion, this year’s Kentucky Derby winning trainer with Animal Kingdom, won the race in 1997 with Power Play and just missed his second Del ‘Cap score in 2002 when longshot Your Out was nailed on the wire by the favorite Summer Colony. Ramon Dominguez, former five-time leading Delaware Park jockey and current top rider in New York, won his first Delaware Handicap in 2001 with Irving’s Baby and then followed with his second in 2007 aboard Unbridled Belle.
“I remember the last Delaware Handicap I was in,” said Porter. “The day before we won the Delaware Oaks with Zonk in 2001. (Mike) McCarthy rode her, and she paid $70.00. We had Jostle in the Delaware Handicap, and there was a lot of press that no owner had won both the Oaks and the Del ‘Cap in the same year. Jostle was the favorite and Jerry Bailey was coming down to ride, so it looked good for us, but Jostle just did not have it that day.”
Havre de Grace, named after the former racetrack on the eastern shore of Maryland, is unbeaten in three starts this year. Her most recent win came in the local prep for the Delaware Handicap, the Grade III Obeah Stakes on June 11. Last year, the 4-year-old daughter of Saint Liam posted a record of two wins from six starts and just missed winning the Delaware Oaks when she ran second, beaten by a nose by the eventual 3-year-old filly champion Blind Luck. In 2009, the Kentucky-bred conditioned by J. Larry Jones, broke her maiden at Delaware Park. She has a career record of six wins, three seconds and two thirds from 11 starts, with earnings of $1,371,175.
The Delaware Handicap always figured very prominently in Havre de Grace’s 4-year-old campaign.
“Larry (Jones) and I have been talking about the Del ‘Cap all along,” Porter said. “When I first gave Larry the horse before her 4-year-old season, I told him she might be the horse that could win the big one at Delaware. She is obviously one of the nicest looking horses I have ever had. As far as talent and accomplishments, I would put her right up there with Hard Spun. She might be a better horse then Hard Spun. I hope she turns out to be the best horse I have ever had, and I have been fortunate enough to have some nice ones.”