STANTON, Del. – Elate was facing a much tougher field than when she dominated the 2018 Delaware Handicap. The problem for the field in Saturday’s DelCap is that they were facing a much tougher Elate.
Two really good mares, Escape Clause and Blue Prize, gave the kind of effort that would have won Delaware Park’s signature race in some years. Not this year, not against Elate, who ran as well as she ever has in winning the race by 4½ lengths over Escape Clause, who finished just in front of Blue Prize.
When he was asked if he wanted to ride the last race on the card for Arabians, winning jockey Jose Ortiz just smiled. He had done enough on a day trip down from Saratoga. He rode four favorites in four stakes races and won them all.
Elate was the easiest of the wins. The 5-year-old mare is very good at some distances, unbeaten in three starts at the classic American distance of a mile and a quarter. She ran this DelCap in 2 minutes, 2.51 seconds and paid $2.60 as the overwhelming favorite.
`I’m a little disappointed they don’t have more races going a mile and a quarter,’’ Ortiz said. "I think going a mile and a quarter, she’s the best mare in the country.’’
Elate gave Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who was not at the track, his fourth DelCap win, tying him with Henry Clark and Todd Pletcher for the record. Owners Dell Hancock of Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider were in the winner’s circle for the ceremony.
"It was a thrill today, wasn’t it?’’ Hancock said. "[We] were told when we got her she was as good as she was at 3 [years old], when she won the Alabama and Beldame.’’
Hancock loves coming to DelPark.
"The first race I ever won in my life for myself was here,’’ she said. "I love this paddock. To see her come in here and be the way she was, it’s just a thrill.’’
That first win was a jumping race. This was the Delaware Handicap -- again
When Elate won last year, it was her first race in eight months. This was her fourth race in four months -- a second, a third, a win, and a huge win.
It looked for a few seconds on the far turn as if Manitoba-bred Escape Clause might sneak away and win it. But Elate was on her in a blink. And then gone.
"I wanted to follow [Escape Clause],’’ Ortiz said.
First, he had to extricate himself from some traffic. And then he saw Blue Prize moving on the inside.
"I said, `Should I wait and go behind [Blue Prize] or go wide and ride her like the best? She’s 1-5. I’m going to ride her like the best.’ ’’ Ortiz said. "I trust [Bill]. I know she’s ready.’’