STANTON, Del. - With the return of live racing and pleasant weather, Delaware Park was crowded yesterday on the first of 137 programs scheduled this season.
Although the eight thoroughbred races included only 45 starters, the featured $75,000 Sweet and Sassy Stakes offered a blanket finish won by extreme long shot Travel Plans.
Owned by the Liberty Stable and trained by Sandra Slivka, the 23-1 Travel Plans held off repeated challenges down the stretch to prevail by a neck under Kendrick Carmouche.
Amandatude, with the second-longest odds in the field at 15-1, closed strongly to finish second, a nose before Summer Cruise, who was one-half length before the pacesetter Miss Elsie.
Wild Gams, the even-money favorite, finished last in the field of seven fillies and mares.
Travel Plans raced the six furlongs over a wet but fast track in 1 minute, 10 seconds and paid $48.60 to win, topping a $575.20 exacta.
Jockey Ramon Dominguez rode three winners on the program and said he would ride Sam P. for trainer Todd Pletcher in Saturday's Kentucky Derby.
Dominguez was considered a possible rider for Chelokee, but trainer Michael Matz announced Friday that his colt would not run in the Derby.
The 30-year-old jockey, second in last year's Derby to Barbaro while aboard Bluegrass Cat, rode Sam P. for the first time in the Santa Anita Derby. The colt tired in the stretch to finish third behind the winning Tiago.
Sam P. "was wearing blinkers for the first time and showed more speed than I expected," Dominguez said yesterday. "Hopefully, he'll rate in the Derby if that's what Pletcher wants."
With free admission to the track and casino yesterday, no attendance figure was taken, but the outdoor paddock area was full and the stands were crowded.