PREAKNESS A JOYOUS HOMECOMING FOR CALIFORNIA CHROME’S EXERCISE RIDER
Willie Delgado Set for Return to Roots With Kentucky Derby Winner; Dynamic Impact Arrives Wednesday; Rosario Named on Ride On Curlin
BALTIMORE, 05-05-14—The 139th running of the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course on May 17 will provide a joyous homecoming for Willie Delgado, the exercise rider of Kentucky Derby (G1) winner California Chrome.
Delgado was trying to grind out a living in Maryland last August while training a small string and exercising horses for another stable when he decided that he needed a vacation.
The 46-year-old former jockey ventured to Southern California to visit his brother, Alberto, a longtime Maryland jockey who was riding at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. At the encouragement of his brother, who has ridden more than 2,900 winners, Delgado returned to Maryland to wrap up his business and returned to Southern California in September.
“I had a bunch of bad horses. I was galloping for Dove Houghton and training my own. It just never peaked for me with training,” Delgado said Monday morning at Churchill Downs. “I just went back to what I do best – which is galloping horses.”
A couple months after his move to the Southern California circuit, Delgado went to work as an exercise rider for trainer Art Sherman at Hollywood Park upon the recommendation of his brother. He subsequently got the morning call aboard a California-bred 2-year-old whom his brother had ridden to victory in a maiden race at Hollywood Park last May and the Graduation Stakes at Del Mar in late July.
“I said, ‘Wow! It’s true what my brother says,” said Delgado, recalling the first time he galloped California Chrome. “My brother said he could run.”
About five months later, California Chrome showed the whole world just how much he could run when he captured last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs for Sherman, breeders/owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin and jockey Victor Espinoza.
Delgado and Sherman’s son and assistant trainer Alan watched the Derby trackside, cheering on California Chrome and ending up several paths from the outside rail by the time the flashy chestnut colt crossed the finish line 1 ¾ lengths ahead of runner-up Commanding Curve.
“I have friends ask me, ‘How does it feel?’ I say, ‘I’ll tell you what, when my daughter was born, it’s right there with that,’” Delgado said. “I’d say it’s a dead heat. It was the most exciting feeling I’ve had when I saw my daughter born. This was just about the same.”
Delgado is looking forward to reuniting with his 6-year-old daughter, Savannah, who lives with her mother in Maryland, and celebrating the Derby victory when he arrives at Pimlico Race Course with California Chrome.
“As soon as the horse crossed the wire, the first text I got was from her. “It said, “Daddy, I can’t believe you won the Kentucky Derby. I’m so proud of you.’ That’s when I started crying,’” said Delgado, whose father, Alberto Ramos, was a prominent rider on the New England circuit before his retirement in 1995 and whose younger brother, Gilberto Delgado, is currently riding in the Mid-Atlantic region.
California Chrome will be returning to his roots, as well. The son of California stallion Lucky Pulpit is out of the Maryland-bred mare, Love the Chase. He will arrive in Maryland no worse from the wear of overwhelming 18 rivals over 1¼ miles Saturday at Churchill.
“When I pulled him out of his stall this morning, he never walked like that. He was dragging me around,” said Delgado of California Chrome’s Monday morning exercise. “He was shaking his head like he hadn’t run yet.”
California Chrome has thrived during his five-race winning streak, his exercise rider said.
“It’s his power, his demeanor – his power, the way he does things,” Delgado said. “With every race, he’s gotten stronger and stronger.”
California Chrome is scheduled to return to the Churchill Downs track for a jog on Wednesday, reported Alan Sherman, whose father returned to Southern California Monday and will reunite with his Derby winner in Baltimore next week. Travel plans have not been finalized for California Chrome. He could arrive next Monday, May 12 or Wednesday, May 14.
In other Preakness news:
The recent trend of Preakness candidates shipping to Pimlico shortly after the Kentucky Derby will continue this year with Rontos Racing Stable Corp.’s Social Inclusion arriving on Thursday. John Oxley’s Dynamic Impact is scheduled to arrive next Wednesday.
In 2012, trainer Doug O’Neill sent I’ll Have Another to Baltimore less than 48 hours after his Derby victory. O’Neill followed suit with Goldencents last year.
Dynamic Impact galloped before the morning renovation break at Churchill Downs with exercise rider Marco Cano up for trainer Mark Casse. Winner of the Illinois Derby (G3) in his most recent start, Dynamic Impact worked five furlongs in 1:00.20 on Saturday morning at Churchill Downs. Casse said that jockey Miguel Mena will retain the mount for the Preakness.
Kaleem Shah’s Bayern, working in company with two-time graded stakes-winning filly Awesome Baby, drilled five furlongs in 58.20 seconds over a fast Churchill Downs racing surface after Monday morning’s renovation break.
Trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Rosie Napravnik, Bayern started two lengths behind and outside of Awesome Baby, who was ridden by Joe Rocco Jr. Bayern drew to within a length on the turn and finished three lengths in front while posting the fastest move of 19 at the distance for the morning. Fractions were :23 and :34.40 and a six-furlong gallop out was timed in 1:13.40.
Bayern finished first in the Derby Trial (G3) on April 26 at Churchill Downs but was disqualified and placed second behind Embellishing Bob for interference in the stretch. Napravnik received a three-day suspension that she is serving this week.
West Point Thoroughbreds is part of the ownership of Ring Weekend, a Preakness possible trained by Graham Motion.
“I don’t know about any other horses; I’m just training my horse,” Stewart said. “My horse came out of the race good. But it’s tough coming back in two weeks and there are a lot of other races out there.”
Joel Rosario, who finished 11th in the Kentucky Derby aboard General a Rod, will have the Preakness mount aboard Daniel Dougherty’s Ride On Curlin.
Trainer Billy Gowan was not happy with the ride Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel gave the colt during his seventh-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Ride On Curlin broke from the No. 19 post and dropped back to last as Borel took the colt straight to the rail.
“I told him before the race that he had three-eighths of a mile to work his way over,” Gowan said.
Gowan said Ride On Curlin is doing well and would return to the track Wednesday.
“He was not tired at all after the Derby. He only ran three-eighths of a mile,” Gowan said. “He was more tired after his seven-eighths work last Sunday.”
Dougherty echoed his trainer’s thoughts.
“I walked back with him after the Arkansas Derby (G1) and he was tired,” Dougherty said of the runner-up effort. “He wasn’t tired Saturday.”
Even though his Derby dream was dashed, Dougherty was able to find one positive going forward with Ride On Curlin.
“It is only two weeks (to the Preakness) and you don’t want to leave it all out there on the track,” Dougherty said.
Also headed to the Preakness is speedy Pablo Del Monte, the third-place finisher in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1).
Ward decided to scratch out the Derby rather than have Pablo Del Monte start from the outside in a 20-horse field. After the Giant’s Causeway colt worked six furlongs in 1:10.80 Sunday, Ward said he could have been a contender in the Derby.
“The way race played out with soft fractions for a Derby and a slow final time, I really think I would have had a great chance to be at least second,” Ward said. “I was speaking to my good friend Paul Shanahan and I told him just that. He said, ‘Listen Wesley, nobody remembers who was second. If you really feel that way and the horse worked as good as he did, maybe we can win the Preakness and that will be forever.’”
Linda Rice-trained Kid Cruz, the winner of the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Park and the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico in his last two starts, is scheduled to compete in the Preakness. The 3-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid was claimed from the Black Swan Stable by Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds for $50,000 at Aqueduct in November. Black Swan later bought back into the Kentucky-bred colt.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said that Robert Baker and William Mack’s Hopeful (G1) winner Strong Mandate will not run in the Preakness.
“He’s not going,” said Lukas, who won his sixth Preakness last May with Oxbow. “I am going to wait until Saratoga.”