05/15/2014 10:42AM

Delgado not bitter over what might have been

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Benoit & Associates
Alberto Delgado, pictured on California Chrome, rode atop the eventual Kentucky Derby winner for the colt's first five races.

BALTIMORE – Jockey Alberto Delgado has a photo on his cellphone that starkly illustrates the excruciating difference between what might have been and what is.

The photo shows Delgado aboard California Chrome in the Santa Anita starting gate the Friday of Breeders’ Cup weekend in 2013. The colt is nearly upright while jumping at the break, conceding valuable ground to his opposition in the Golden State Juvenile. California Chrome was never a factor thereafter, finishing sixth.

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It was the fifth time Delgado had ridden California Chrome in a race. A longtime Maryland regular who had moved to California to try to resurrect his career, Delgado, now 49, had ridden quite a few horses in the prior months for Art Sherman, the trainer of California Chrome.

“They took me off after that race,” Delgado, now riding races back home, said this week at Pimlico.

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The story lines crisscross in the aftermath of Delgado being removed in favor of Victor Espinoza, who proceeded to win five straight on the colt. Delgado’s younger brother, Willie, 46, has been instrumental in the colt’s phenomenal success as his daily exercise rider. Alberto Delgado said he is happy for his brother, happy for the horse, and happy for “Mr. Sherman,” as he calls him.

He is, however, not happy that a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity eluded him. Delgado won the Eclipse Award as top apprentice jockey in 1982 and has won more than 2,900 races. But he has never been close to anything as glorious as winning the Kentucky Derby, and that photo that displays California Chrome’s gate misstep is a reminder of how cruel the fates of racing can be.

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“I might have been taken off the horse later on. You never know,” Delgado said. “It is what it is, a tough break. But I want him to go on and win the Triple Crown. I do – for Willie, for the horse, for everybody else.”

** Not to get too far ahead, but here’s what assistant trainer Alan Sherman said this week about post-Preakness travel plans for California Chrome: “I haven’t totally confirmed it with my dad, but if we win, I’m sure we’ll head straight to Belmont. If we get beat, I’m sure we’d go home to California and think about what to do next.”

** Aside from the usual wide assortment of exotic wagers on Preakness Day, Pimlico is offering the following pool guarantees on the last two pick four wagers of the card: races 5-8, $350,000; and races 9-12 (ends with Preakness), $1.5 million.