The barn area at Delaware Park continues to fill up in anticipation of the track's May 21 opening day, and some trainers will have horses there for the first time or have returned after an absence.
Among those with horses on the grounds are Gerald Bennett, George Leonard III, Keith Nations, Kelly Rubley, Bobby Raymond, John Servis, and Harold Wyner.
Bennett, the leading trainer at Tampa Bay Downs, will have about 60 stalls, track officials said. The 72-year-old native of Nova Scotia had horses at Delaware Park in 1998.
"We have a pretty good mix of older horses, 2-year-olds, and some 3-year-old fillies," Bennett said. "I looked at the book and I think our operation fits well with the Delaware Park program."
Leonard will have 20 stalls. The 61-year-old Illinois native has regularly raced in Louisiana, Texas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Florida.
"I have never really been stabled in the Mid-Atlantic, so I am looking forward to spending the summer here," Leonard said. "I have heard a lot of great things about racing in this area and I also heard a lot of great things about Delaware Park, so I decided to come see for myself and try something new.
Keith Nations, who saddled his first winner at Emerald Downs in Washington in 1991, will have about 40 stalls. The 55-year-old native of North Carolina relocated his operation to the Mid-Atlantic from northern California in 2013. He was primarily stabled at Parx Racing in Pennsylvania, but this year plans on having 30 to 40 horses at Delaware and Park 10 to 15 at Parx.
"I could not be happier about making the move to the Mid-Atlantic," Nations said. "It was the best thing I could have done. We shipped-in and ran in a race at Delaware Park last year, and my wife (Cheryl) and I really liked the facility. Besides the incredible paddock and horse-friendly stable area, Delaware Park has a really good feel to it. That is something that is becoming very important to us.
"We decided it was time for a change during the spring and summer, and Delaware was very attractive to us."
Nations participates in the Delaware Certified Program, which offers purse-based bonuses to horses that were boarded at Delaware farms or training centers for at least 90 days prior to March 31 of their 2-year-old year. The program is designed to increase the local Thoroughbred population in a state with no established breeding program.
"I have been encouraging all of my owners to get their horses Delaware Certified because it is an outstanding program and we've got a good group of Delaware Certified horses," Nations said. "We have a nice bunch of 2-year-olds we are pretty excited about. Mercedes Stable bought some really nice young horses, and I am expecting to get some of those."
Other trainers making preparations for the 2016 meet include Jamie Ness, Larry Jones, Graham Motion, Tim Ritchey, Randy Allen, Randy Nunley, Sam Cronk, Michael Gorham, Anthony Pecoraro, Louis Albertrani, John Rigaterri, Jonathan Sheppard, Bill Sienkewicz, Tom Proctor, Mark Reid, Tim Ice, Baltazar Galvan, Ron Potts, Arnaud Delacour, Ronald Alfano, and Scott Lake.
Delaware Park will race four days a week—Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday—from June through September; there will be no Thursday racing in May or October. The meet ends Oct. 15.
The grade I Delaware Handicap is set for July 16 and the grade III Delaware Oaks is scheduled for July 9.
The track has added a pair of starter allowance series for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, and an open division for 3-year-olds and up. A $20,000 bonus will go to trainers of the top three points-earning runners in each series on a 60%-30%-10% basis.