HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Trainer Jorge Delgado enjoyed a magical career milestone when he saddled his first graded-stakes winner on last year’s Preakness Stakes (G1) undercard at Pimlico.
When Lightening Larry took over the lead in deep stretch and held resolutely to win the May 21 Chick Lang (G3), Delgado got caught up in the enveloping electric atmosphere of Preakness Day.
“It was a day I’ll never forget. It was my first graded-stakes winner,” Delgado said. “You know how Preakness Days are. It was packed – the only thing you see is people. To hear all the people screaming and all the emotions during the race – when he went to the lead with all the people screaming – it will be a day I’ll never forget.”
Lea Farms LLC’s Lightening Larry, who is winless in three starts since his Preakness Day victory, is scheduled to seek a winning start of his 4-year-old campaign in Saturday’s $75,000 Sunshine Sprint, a six-furlong dash for older Florida-breds at Gulfstream Park.
“He’s been training really good approaching this race. I know he hasn’t won since May, but he’s had excuses. I know his quality,” Delgado said. “He might be a longshot in the field, but he’s a stakes horse, a good horse and I think he’s going to have a good 4-year-old campaign.”
The 32-year-old trainer hasn’t lost an ounce confidence in Lightening Larry, but he also knows the son of Uncaptured doesn’t owe him a thing after putting him on the map with horse owners and thousands of racing fans by winning on one of Thoroughbred racing’s most important days.
“It’s great that these horses are so kind. They make you look good,” Delgado said. They are the only reasons you get known in this game. Without them, you’re nothing.”
Delgado, who has achieved a strike rate of more than 20 percent since venturing to South Florida from Venezuela in 2017, has steadily improved the quality of stock in his stable, which now includes Super Chow, who has won stakes at Keeneland, Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream in his last three starts; Willy Boi, who awarded his trainer his second graded-stakes win in the Smile Sprint (G3) at Gulfstream in July; and up-and-coming New York Thunder, a son of Nyquist who has dazzled while launching his career with a pair of eye-catching victories at five furlongs on turf at Gulfstream Park..
Super Chow is being pointed to the Feb. 4 Claiborne Swale; Willy Boi is scheduled to be entered in the Feb. 11 Pelican at Tampa Bay; New York Thunder is slated to make his stakes debut in the March 25 Animal Kingdom at Turfway Park.
“I do have a lot of good new horses in my barn that will be running in the next three months,” Delgado said. “It’s about to get exciting for me.”
Noble Drama, Octane Top Sunshine Classic Nominations
Multiple stakes winners Noble Drama and Octane, 2022 runner-up Sir Ollie and Grade 3-placed Mish are among a dozen nominees to the $75,000 Sunshine Classic Saturday, Jan. 21 at Gulfstream Park.
The Classic on dirt shares the spotlight with the $75,000 Sunshine Turf, both for Florida-bred 4-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles.
Owned and trained by David Fawkes, 8-year-old Noble Drama won the Classic in 2020 and was second in 2021. He owns 10 wins, five in stakes, and more than $800,000 in purse earnings from 35 lifetime starts.
Arindel’s homebred Octane put together three straight wins to cap his juvenile season in 2021 including the FSS Affirmed and In Reality. The 4-year-old Brethren gelding went two-for-five in 2022 capped by a front-running triumph in the FSS Marion County Dec. 10 at Tampa Bay Downs.
Peter Vegso’s homebred Sir Ollie, by 2009 Florida Derby (G1) and 2010 Donn Handicap (G1) winner Quality Road, was beaten a half-length when second to Shamrocket in the 2022 Classic. C2 Racing Stable’s Mish set the pace before settling for second by 1 ½ lengths in the Steve Sexton Mile (G3) last May on the dirt at Lone Star.
Also, among Classic nominees are Bracco di Ferro, fourth in 2022; Clapton, winner of the Gil Campbell Memorial going a mile Oct. 1 at Gulfstream; and Picking Up Pennies, riding a two-race win streak.
Clapton and Legends Can’t Die are also among 16 nominees to the Sunshine Turf, led by Duke Perry Stable, Jeffrey Lambert, Robert Fetkin and Larry Buckendorf’s defending champion Lure Him In. The 6-year-old son of Khozan rolled to a 2 ½-length victory in last year’s Turf, his most recent win, placing in three of his next seven starts including a third in the Turf Classic against state-breds last March at Tampa Bay Downs.
Other Turf nominees include Drama Chorus and Max K.O., respectively first and third in Tampa’s Turf Classic; Gulfstream stakes winners Hot Blooded and Me and Mr. C.; and Proven Strategies, third in the 2021 Connaught Cup (G2) on the Woodbine turf who is entered in an optional claiming allowance Friday at Gulfstream.
Late Owner Virginia Kraft Payson Enjoyed Florida Success
Sportswoman Virginia Kraft Payson, who campaigned a number of stakes winners at Gulfstream Park and other South Florida tracks over the years, died Monday at 92.
Owner of Payson Park in Indiantown before selling in 2019 to Peter Brant, Payson’s Fairy Garden, trained by Hall of Famer Roger Attfield, won Gulfstream’s 1993 The Very One and Orchid (G2) handicaps in consecutive starts.
Salem Drive, trained by Tom Skiffington, won Gulfstream’s Budweiser Breeders’ Cup in 1988 and Hialeah Park’s Bougainvillea (G2) in 1987. Skiffington also trained Payson’s La Ouimet, a Grade 2 winner who broke his maiden at Gulfstream.
Payson Stud bred Farda Amiga and Vindication, Eclipse Award champion 3-year-old filly and 2-year-old male, respectively, of 2002. Payson also bred St. Jovite, winner of the Irish Derby (G1) and King George VI (G1) & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (G1) in 1992.
Along with wintering and developing her own horses at Payson, other horses who have used Payson as their winter headquarters and early training center have been Royal Delta, Easy Goer, Gio Ponte, Lure and Perfect Shirl. The first three official finishers in the 2019 Kentucky Derby – Country House, Code of Honor and Tacitus – all wintered at Payson