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Apr 24, 2009

Delaware Park going strong

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor


Stanton, DE (Sports Network) - In this era of year-round racing, opening day at a seasonal racetrack is similar to opening day in baseball. The sky is bluer and the flowers smell especially fragrant.

Delaware Park opens for its 72nd meet on Saturday. There has been so much interest in the track that entries for the first card closed early.

Delaware Park has succeeded in recent years due to the advent of its slots casino. This year, however, there was a slash in most of the stakes purses to keep the overnight purses at last year's level.

The highlight of the season continues to be the $1 million Delaware Handicap for fillies and mares on Sunday, July 19.

Several new trainers will set up shop at Delaware Park, Michael Stidham, Cody Autrey and Ron Moquett. Top returning trainers include Scott Lake, Larry Jones, Tim Ritchey, Steve Klesaris, Michael Gorham, Jonathan Sheppard, Anthony Dutrow, Michael Matz and H. Graham Motion.

"I have been to Delaware once before," said Cody Autry, "and Steve Klesaris came to New Orleans and he thought I would like Delaware. I liked the condition book from the year before and how long the meet runs. It ends right before the Fair Grounds starts again so it fits into my program real good. All in all we are going to give it a shot and hopefully everything will turn out as we expect."

If there's one celebrity trainer based at Delaware Park it's probably Larry Jones. He has trained such stars as Hard Spun and Eight Belles. This year he has three-year-olds Old Fashioned and Friesan Fire. Old Fashioned was recently retired with an injury, but Friesan Fire is one of the Kentucky Derby favorites.

"We got several horses we are excited about," Jones said. "We have several for Rick Porter (Fox Hill Farm) we are excited about. We have some three-year- olds that are really just getting their careers started. We have Smiley Pete who was an impressive winner in his second start in New Orleans (Fair Grounds). We also have Point Lookout who was an impressive winner in his second career start at Oaklawn (Arkansas). So they are some of the horses that are flying slightly under the radar right now that we are expecting some positive things from. We have another horse named Whistle Jacket who looks like he is going to be a very good horse on the turf. And, of course, we also got the heavy hitters like Honest Man and Just Jenda to look forward to as well."

Returning to ride at Delaware Park for a second season is Florida-based jockey Rosemary Homeister, Jr. Last year she won 73 times to finish fifth in the jockey standings.

The 36-year-old Homeister is enthusiastic about the upcoming meet.

"I love Delaware Park," the veteran rider said. "It has a great atmosphere and a very good turf course. Being here gives me the chance to also ride at other nearby tracks."

While other historic tracks either fight to remain open or are forced to close, it's wonderful to come to Delaware Park and see the track flourish.



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