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Jul 20, 2012

Up the Backstretch: Setting the Del 'Cap morning line

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

(Sports Network) - Have you ever wondered how the morning line in horseracing is derived upon? This column will hopefully provide some insight into how a morning line is created.

When the people in Las Vegas put up opening lines for sporting events, that line is the number bettors actually wager on. The line will move according to how much money is bet on either side of the game or matchup.

The morning line in horseracing is simply the racetrack's way of alerting the public about who is the likely favorite when the race begins. Horseracing is a parimutuel sport, meaning the gamblers are actually betting versus each other.

This Saturday at Delaware Park, the track's big race of the year goes off, the $750,000 Delaware Handicap for fillies and mares, also known as the Del 'Cap.

At Delaware Park the morning line is set by track handicapper Chris Sobocinski. He was kind enough to let us in on his thinking as to why Royal Delta is the 7-5 favorite for the Del 'Cap and Awesome Maria is the 9-5 second pick in the seven horse field.

In horseracing the track handicapper is trying to judge how the public will bet the horses in each race. So Chris used several conditions in setting the Del 'Cap morning line.

"The big thing was the last start for each horse," Sobocinski said. "Royal Delta was just sensational in the Fleur de Lis, being a second faster than the boys that night. The buzz about her has been overwhelming. I think because of that buzz she will be the favorite."

Royal Delta won the Fleur de Lis by eight lengths after a seven week layoff. That happens to be the margin of victory Awesome Maria posted when she defeated Royal Delta five months ago.

"On the flip side with Awesome Maria, she's coming off that loss, finishing third in the Ogden Phipps," Sobocinski continued. "Going into that race her chances were a little bit compromised by having to change some of her training schedule around a little bit. But still on the past performance line it still says third behind It's Tricky and Cash for Clunkers.

"I actually moved Awesome Maria down a little bit. Originally I was going to have her a little higher. The reason I moved her down a little bit was because of the local jockey Ramon Dominguez. I know that anytime Ramon comes here he always gets a little bit more money played on him, but that's not enough factor for me to propel for her to be the morning line favorite over Royal Delta."

His 6-1 third pick for the Del 'Cap is Pachattack. The six-year-old chestnut mare is coming off a sixth on the turf in a stakes at Colonial Downs. Chris likes her more on the dirt.

"I think Pachattack really fits this race,' the veteran handicapper noted. "I spoke to (trainer) Graham Motion a couple times leading up to the draw, and I told him I believe her best races were on the dirt. She finished third in the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic, she was giving weight to Royal Delta that day and now there's going to be a switch in the weights a little bit.

"I think she fits. I think at 6-1 she'll be a nice price, she might even be a little bit higher. She definitely fits. I know Graham likes taking his shots in big races, I think this horse fits that mold 100 percent. She's a good horse to take a shot with. Her best races have been on the dirt, so I think she's going to get a little bit of money."

I hope this has been insightful as to how a track handicapper comes up with his or her morning line, particularly for a big stakes race.

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