At the age of 42, Delgadillo skillfully guided the 5-year-old Tiznow mare through moderate fractions during the 1 1/8-mile turf journey while preserving just enough to repel the closing bid of 2-1 second choice Marzelline by a nose at odds of 9-1.
Marzelline, with Victor Espinoza in the irons, closed steadily on the outside to narrowly miss while finishing one-half length ahead of third-place Solar Miss, ridden by Garrett Gomez, in the field of eight. Valbenny, the 2-1 favorite with Alex Solis aboard, checked in a well-beaten fourth.
“Rafael (DeLeon) told me to go to the front, and ‘to go as slow as you can,’ and that’s what happened,” Delgadillo said. “At the top of the stretch, I felt like I had a lot of horse, but I didn’t know about the closers. I knew they’d be coming, and I was hoping my filly would keep going. I won on her in Phoenix (Queen O’ Green Handicap at Turf Paradise on Dec. 6), and I was looking forward to riding her here, but I didn’t know how she was going to fit with these horses.”
Perfectly, it turned out, in a field that lacked any other dedicated speed type. “I just told Agapito, ‘No speed, let’s go, Agapito,’” noted DeLeon. Tizfiz rewarded her backers with payoffs of $21, $9.80 and $7. Marzelline paid $3.40 and $3 while the show price on Solar Miss was $4.
“This is my biggest win,” said DeLeon, a native of Guatemala who has been training on his own for four years after being employed by the late Doug Peterson, Randy Bradshaw and D. Wayne Lukas. “I won some $75,000 races, but never a graded stakes.”
Delgadillo’s only previous graded stakes victory was achieved aboard Jungle Prince in the Grade III Hollywood Turf Express at Hollywood Park in 2006. His richest win had been gained aboard I’m a Jewel in the $200,000 California Derby in 1997 when the event was ungraded. A native of Mexico, he began riding in the United States in 1988.
“I have 12 horses in training,” DeLeon reported, “and Tizfiz is the best one. I claimed her (on Oct. 4 during Santa Anita’s Oak Tree meet) because my owners liked her, and I thought she could run long. I don’t know what’s next.”
Owned by Brian Kahn and the Richard J. O’Neill Trust, Tizfiz earned $90,000 to boost her lifetime total to $233,160 from a record of 5-3-0 in 12 starts. The San Gorgonio was her second stakes victory to accompany the $50,000 event at Turf Paradise.
DeLeon’s first graded stakes win came in a race that Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel had taken seven of the past 13 years and was favored to win again with fourth-place Valbenny.
Following dark days Monday and Tuesday, Santa Anita will resume racing on Wednesday with an eight-race card that begins at 1 p.m.