Delaware celebrates owners, Certified contributions to industry

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Oct. 2, 2017

The Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association Sept. 30 celebrated its 25th Owners Day in recognition of those who support racing at Delaware Park, but it also focused on an important incentive program conceived by the DTHA in the early 2000s.

The event, held during a pleasant, cool afternoon in northern Delaware, was well-attended. Among the guests were Delaware Gov. John Carney, Lieutenant Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse, and four members of the House of Representatives and three from the Senate.

Carney, a Delaware native, is a longtime advocate for horse racing, both Thoroughbred and Standardbred, in the state. When he was a teenager, Carney parked cars in valet at Delaware Park.

“He’s Delaware through and through,” DTHA Executive Director Bessie Gruwell said. “He has come to some of our board meetings in the past. He supports horse racing in the state.”

Carney and the other lawmakers participated in a trophy presentation for the $75,000 DTHA Governor’s Day Handicap, won by BB Horses’ Afleet Willy, who is trained by Claudio Gonzalez and was ridden by Jomar Torres. Afleet Willy set a new track record of 1:38.53 for one mile and 70 yards on the dirt.

Legislators are interested in racing in the state not only because of its ties to racetrack gaming but due to its link with agriculture. They have been very supportive of the Delaware Certified Thoroughbred Program, which the horsemen’s group and Delaware Park support financially as a means to spur protection of farmland and incentivize people to participate in the Delaware Park meet each year.

Each open race at the track carries up to a 50% Delaware Certified bonus, 25% of which goes to the owner and 25% to the certifier, for first-, second- or third-place finishes. Up to $1 million a year is available for the bonuses and for four stakes run each year on Owner Day.

To qualify, a certified horse must have been domiciled at a registered Delaware farm–there are up to 100–for at least 90 days prior to March 31 of its 2-year-old year.

Trainer Gary Capuano had a productive afternoon with two wins and a third in three of the Delaware Certified stakes. Oak Tree Stable’s Enchanted Star, a Maryland-bred, won the $75,000 Small Wonder for 2-year-old fillies, while Daniel Crowley’s Hailey’s Flip, a 3-year-old Maryland-bred, captured the $100,000 Tax Free Shopping Distaff. Both were ridden by Torres.

In the $100,000 New Castle for 3-year-olds and up, Maryland-bred Final Prospect, a 5-year-old Jump Start gelding, finished third for Non Stop Stable, Capuano and Torres.

“It’s a good program,” Capuano said. “We keep looking for (Certified) horses. I’ve already registered five more, and we hope a few of them work out. I bought a couple of them (at auction). We’ll keep trying.”

Maryland-breds swept the four Delaware Certified stakes. The others were Black Cloud Stable’s Whereshetoldmetogo, who won the $75,000 First State for 2-year-olds for Anthony Pecoraro, and Rickman Racing’s Winplaceorshowono, a Ronald Alfano trainee who took the New Castle.

The attraction of the Delaware Certified program is that registered horses also compete for various bonuses and awards in their home states, such as Maryland.

“People are getting smart racing here in the Mid-Atlantic and making the most of the money available,” Gruwell said. “And if somebody buys a yearling (at the Oct. 2-3) Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale and ships it directly to a Delaware Certified farm for 90 days, they don’t have to pay the 6% Maryland sales tax.”

During the Owners Day festivities, Maryland-based trainer Gina Rosenthal was recognized as the leading certifier of 2016. She started four horses a combined 13 times and posted four wins, three seconds and two thirds for $22,997 in certifier bonuses. A certifier is the individual who arranges to register and locate a horse at a Delaware farm for the required period.

The “Silver Anniversary” Owners Day included a starter allowance race for gray or roan horses. It was named in honor of late Mid-Atlantic trainer Bob Camac, a regular at Delaware Park for many years.

(Photo by Tom LaMarra)