Day At The Track

Culinary Delight takes on Distaff Open

07:55 AM 11 Jan 2019 NZDT
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Culinary Delight N and driver Larry Stalbaum
Culinary Delight N and driver Larry Stalbaum
Melissa Simser-Iovino Photo

YONKERS, N.Y. – When Larry Stalbaum was in the process of vetting the purchase of Gina Grace in late 2017, the harness racing trainer watched a replay of the Group 3 Sue Kelly Ladyship Stakes at Menangle, where then 8-year-old mare Culinary Delight got up to defeat his prospect by a half-length in 1:51.4. Stalbaum bought Gina Grace and shipped her to his stable in the U.S. and he thought so highly of her, that he also brought home Culinary Delight.

“The only reason I bought her was because she beat Gina Grace,” Stalbaum said. “I gave a lot more (money) for Gina Grace and I had high hopes for her. I watched her beat Gina Grace one time and I took a shot on her and bought her and I like her.”

Stalbaum’s pair of New Zealand-bred mares proved productive in 2018. Gina Grace raced in the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series early in the year and finished second in a $40,000 series consolation and earned $106,270 in 40 starts. Culinary Delight did even better, winning eight of her 34 starts, setting a lifetime mark of 1:51.2 at Pocono Downs, and taking home $109,141.

“She never faltered. I had a little sickness go through my barn, so all of my foreign horses got a little sick, including her, so we had to take a little break and get them all over that, but she bounced right back and she did fine,” Stalbaum said of Culinary Delight. “I had high hopes for her and if everything holds together, even though she is getting kind of old, she can do a lot of good in these last few years of her career.”

Culinary Delight will start her 9-year-old season Friday night (January 11) at Yonkers. The Lis Mara daughter out of the Christian Cullen mare Culinary Affair will look to add her first local $44,000 distaff feature to her resume. 

Culinary Delight completed her final race in Australian last March and she qualified for Stalbaum April 10. The trainer quickly realized his latest acquisition had a preferred style of racing and training.
“She’s a little over aggressive, so I try to keep her calm,” he said. “I try not to leave with her because she gets a little over aggressive real easy. I think she’s a lot better from behind than she is leaving. She’s very, very big, she’s kind of large. She doesn’t like a lot of work, but she shows up when I race her.”

Culinary Delight began her stateside campaign with two straight wins in local overnights and a runner-up finish in the Filly and Mare Open May 4. Stalbaum took her upstate over the summer and fall, where she became a regular face in the distaff opens at Tioga and Saratoga. 

In her most recent outing at the Spa December 14, Culinary Delight tracked the leaders from third, pulled first-over at the half, and wore down the competition to post a 1:54.2 win with Stalbaum in the driver’s seat. The race demonstrated one of Culinary Delight’s best qualities, as her trainer explains.

“She can take a lot of air. It doesn’t matter to her,” he said. “Every time I’ve raced her and left hard, she hasn’t been quite as good, so she’s a lot better if I don’t use her early. I can pull her whenever I want to. 

“I just float off the car and as soon as they line up and slow down, I just pull her,” he continued. “It didn’t matter, she just kept coming. The stretch is so short there, you have to be close. She never gives up. She has a lot of fight in her. I really, really like her. She’s a nice horse.”

Culinary Delight will start from post position four in Friday’s feature and is a 7-1 chance on the morning line with Stalbaum in the sulky. Her competition includes Clear Idea in post two, who will surely leave the gate and at 9-2 early odds and Amateur Hour, who drew the inside and is 7-2 after an off-the-pace victory here December 14. Itty Bitty, Wishy Washy Girl, Dudesalady, Best Of Jenna, and Made Of Jewels AS complete the lineup. 

Culinary Delight’s midpack starting position is ideal, according to her trainer.

“Slide her over and see how the race works out,” Stalbaum said. “She’s ready, she’ll do whatever I ask her to do. We’ll see how the race unfolds.”

Stalbaum hopes Culinary Delight will be competitive at the Hilltop. Although he never sets plans for his horses in stone, he anticipates keeping her at Yonkers for the foreseeable future. He is optimistic she can make an impact in the lucrative local feature.

“I’ll probably keep her there a while and see how it goes. I bounce my horses around, take them a little bit of everywhere. I don’t have a set schedule. Wherever they fit, that’s where I take them,” Stalbaum said. “I do have high hopes for her, I think maybe we can stay there for a while, do some good, and make some big money. That’s what I’m hoping for.”

First post time Friday is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. 

By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

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