Delgado Chasing First G1 Victory in $1M Pegasus Turf

January 23rd, 2024

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – When trainer Jorge Delgado first went out on his own in 2017, he had two horses worth about $2,000 by his own estimate and he worked as his own groom. Seven years later he is a stakes winner at nine different tracks including such historic venues as Keeneland, Pimlico, Saratoga and Gulfstream Park.

Three of Delgado’s stakes wins have come in graded company – the Chick Lang (G3) at Pimlico with Lightening Larry and Smile Sprint (G3) at Gulfstream with Willy Boi, both in 2022, and last summer’s Amsterdam (G2) at Saratoga with New York Thunder. The native of Maracaibo, Venezuela will be chasing his first Grade 1 success with AMO Racing USA’s Kingmax in Saturday’s $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) Invitational.

The 1 1/8-mile Pegasus Turf for 4-year-olds and up is one of seven graded-stakes worth $5.2 million in purses on a spectacular 13-race program highlighted by the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) Invitational presented by Baccarat and $500,000 TAA Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf (G2).

“It’s unbelievable. It’s surreal. You look back seven years ago and you wouldn’t think something like this could happen, and now it’s happening,” Delgado said. “Everything is happening so fast. You have highs and lows, and you have to enjoy the highs and embrace them because there’s not many.”

Delgado experienced one of racing’s worst lows when the best horse he ever trained, AMO Racing’s undefeated New York Thunder, suffered a catastrophic injury less than a sixteenth of a mile from what would have been a victory in the H. Allen Jerkens (G1) at Saratoga, four weeks after winning the Amsterdam.

The 33-year-old Delgado lingered on the track for several minutes afterward, staring blankly out into the infield, then got in his car and drove the 3 ½ hours back to his summer base at Monmouth Park with a heavy heart.

“The lows teach you a lot, and if you’re smart enough you learn from them and move forward,” Delgado said. “There’s always a new day. There’s always a tomorrow. You just have to keep going.”

Delgado has been doing that since first coming to the U.S. and working under his uncle, Gulfstream-based Gustavo Delagado, the trainer of 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mage. Jorge Delgado’s first winner came with Saturado in July 2017 at Gulfstream, one of five wins from 51 starters that year.

In 2022 Delgado set career highs with 84 wins, 336 starters and more than $3.1 million in purse earnings. Last year he won 64 of 302 races and nearly $2.8 million. Other stakes wins have come at Delaware Park, Laurel Park, Monmouth Park, Tampa Bay Downs and Woodbine.

“To win Pegasus would mean the world,” Delgado said. “You work and you dream about these races. I feel the same for every race, even a claiming race. I get really close to the horses and I get very competitive. I’d love to win every race, but these are the kinds of races you win and they can be life-changing.

“There’s not many of those and it’s a blessing that we have this opportunity. I’m just embracing it and hopefully it can come our way,” he added. “If it comes, it comes, and we’ll take it from there. But we’re ready. It’s kind of cocky to say we deserve it, but we’ve been working hard to achieve and come to this point. I think we deserve the shot and I’m happy that we’re in the race.”

Bred in Ireland, Kingmax comes into the Pegasus Turf having come up a head short of winner Main Event following an outside rally in the 1 1/8-mile Fort Lauderdale Dec. 30, Gulfstream’s local prep. It came under British jockey David Egan, who Delgado has given the return call.

“The horse got a race over the track and it’s also important that the jockey already knows the horse,” Delgado said. “The last time was the first time he rode the horse in the U.S., so I think that’s going to give him a good perspective going into this next race.”

Egan had ridden Kingmax to victory in the Unibet Novice Stakes in March 2022 at Kempton in England. It was the 5-year-old horse’s only win in seven tries before coming to the U.S., where he won each of his first two races going 1 1/16 miles on the Monmouth turf before finishing a distant fifth in the Seagram Cup (G2) on Woodbine’s all-weather surface.

“I got him last summer and he ran a couple times at Monmouth, ran well and won both times. We sent him to Woodbine for the Grade 2 and he didn’t care for the synthetic,” Delgado said. “Since he came back he’s been doing very well. I believe that the distance, the surface and everything is good for him, so I think he’s going to run a good race.”

Delgado admitted to not knowing much about Kingmax before his arrival but has been impressed by the talent and development the horse has shown ever since.

“All I heard was that he was a good horse. They told me he was a real good horse, so that’s all I had to go on. But I got to know the horse with the time and he’s a very special horse,” Delgado said.

“On the racetrack he’s easy to handle, very professional. It took me a while to get him going. He didn’t race for almost a year, so it took some time to get him in shape and prepare him,” he added. “I think we did things right. We gave him a couple of allowances first to help him gain some confidence, and now he’s in his best shape.”

Story by Phil Janack

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