Trainer Noel Daley is hoping for a pleasant year from Delightful Dragon.
A 3-year-old filly pacer, Delightful Dragon was slow to make it to the races last season because of issues with her knees but finished the campaign by winning the $394,950 Three Diamonds Stakes on Nov. 30 at Meadowlands Racetrack. Overall, the homebred daughter of Bettor’s Delight-Little Miss Dragon won three of eight starts and earned $227,329 for owner Adam Victor & Son Stable.
“She’s come back very sound,” Daley said. “She can go right with the top ones, I think. She’s a big strong filly. She’s got the will and the desire. She didn’t have a tough year by any means. A few of the speedy ones last year had a lot of racing; it’s always interesting to see what comes back.”
Delightful Dragon made her first start on Aug. 19, winning a conditioned race at Yonkers in 1:56.2. She was off the board in her next five appearances, but suffered in part from tough draws. She got post 10 in her division of the Bluegrass Stakes, where she finished fourth, and post nine in her elimination for the Breeders Crown, where she finished eighth.
“We always liked her; we always thought she had a lot of ability,” Daley said. “She had no luck a few times. She drew outside in the Bluegrass and (driver) Mike Lachance said afterward that she was the best 90-1 shot he’d ever driven. She drew the outside in her elimination for the Breeders Crown, which was a death sentence. After that, we tried to set her up for the Three Diamonds.”
Delightful Dragon won a conditioned race at Yonkers in early November and then qualified twice to prep for the Three Diamonds, which she captured by a neck over Act Now in 1:52.4 at odds of 9-1.
“It worked out,” Daley said. “She got a good trip, but she deserved to win that race. She was definitely good enough; it wasn’t a shock to us at all.”
Delightful Dragon’s mom, Little Miss Dragon, was a multiple-stakes winner during her racing days. Her first foal was a colt, but he lacked, in Daley’s words, “ambition.”
“She’s the opposite,” Daley said. “She’s very nice to deal with, lovely to be around, wants to do it. Everything about her is good.”
In addition to Delightful Dragon, Daley is getting a number of other horses ready to return to action. Here is a synopsis of three others to keep an eye on.
Demoiselle Hanover: A 3-year-old half-sister to 2007 Horse of the Year Donato Hanover, she was winless in four starts last season. The trotter is by stallion Muscle Hill out of the mare D Train and is owned by Timo Nurmos’ Timot Stable.
“She only had a couple races; she had a bunch of issues,” Daley said. “She’s got enough ability to go with them if she behaves herself. If (last year’s division leaders) come back and improve, they’re obviously going to be very good. But you can’t worry about anyone else’s horses. I’m happy with the way she’s been and she’s definitely got enough go if she can step it up a little.”
Outburst: A 3-year-old male trotter, he won five of 10 races last season and finished worse than third only once. He trotted a world-record 1:53.1 in winning his division of the Bluegrass Stakes. He is owned by Daley, Adam Victor & Son Stable, Kemppi Stables, and Mirva Bogucki.
“He’s a nice horse,” Daley said. “I don’t think he’s a top three or four horse, but I think he’s a top 10 horse if he comes back as good as he was. If you can be a top 10 horse you can make a lot of money if you pick your spots and get lucky now and then. There’s so much money out there and the good ones can’t be in all of them. If you can win one decent one, you can do alright there.”
Cedar Dove: She was the Dan Patch Award winner for best 3-year-old filly trotter in 2011. She has won 14 of 50 lifetime races and earned $1.17 million. Last year, she won a division of the Miss Versatility (in a dead heat with Maven) and finished second in the Breeders Crown and Armbro Flight. She is owned by Bill Weaver.
“So far she’s been really good,” Daley said. “I just have to make sure I don’t have her ready too early because she seems to fade away as the year goes on. Keeping weight on her is her biggest issue. But so far so good; I’m real happy with her. She won’t race in too much else other than those (major stakes) races. Canada seems to wipe her out, so I’ll probably do the Armbro Flight but won’t go for the early Miss Versatility this year. She could qualify in probably a week or two.”
by Ken Weingartner, for Harness Racing Communications