Alberto Delgado Holds Fond Tesio Memories Of Oliver’s Twist – Horse Racing News

Nearly three decades have passed, but the memory of Oliver’s Twist winning the 1995 Federico Tesio — and nearly duplicating that success on the national stage four weeks later — are sharp as ever for Alberto Delgado.

“The Tesio is one of the major races in Maryland because it is a step up for the Preakness,” Delgado, 57, said.

Laurel Park will host the 41st running of the $125,000 Federico Tesio for 3-year-olds Saturday, April 16 as part of a Spring Stakes Spectacular program featuring four stakes worth $450,000 in purses. For the seventh straight year, it will serve as a ‘Win and In’ qualifier for Triple Crown-nominated horses to the 147th Preakness Stakes (G1) May 21 at historic Pimlico Race Course.

Since it debuted in 1981, the 1 1/8-mile Tesio has served as a prep for the Preakness with Deputed Testamony the only horse to sweep both races in 1983. Oliver’s Twist, owned by Charles M. Oliver and trained by Bill Boniface, has come closest since, running second to Timber Country in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

“Funny story about the Tesio,” Delgado said. “Mr. Boniface says, ‘Listen we don’t have much time to give you instructions on how to ride this horse, so I wrote it down for you and I want you to read them.’ He sticks his hand in his pocket and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, what is he doing?’

“He gives me a blank paper,” he added. “[I said], ‘What’s this?’ He says, ‘Just ride the horse any way you want, jock.’ That really gave me a lot of confidence. It gave me the green light to just ride the horse any way it comes up, and fortunately we got the job done.”

Oliver’s Twist went undefeated in three starts as a 2-year-old, all at Laurel, including stakes victories in the Rollicking and Maryland Juvenile Championship. After finishing fifth in the Florida Derby (G1) and second in the Private Terms, Oliver’s Twist was second choice in the Tesio behind Western Echo and future Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, drawing Post 5 in a field of 10, three spots inside the favorite.

Sam’s Quest, sent off at 32-1, set the pace for a half-mile before fading and effectively turning the Tesio into a match race between Western Echo and Oliver’s Twist, who hooked up on the far turn and dueled to the wire. Oliver’s Twist, on the outside of Western Echo, surged late to win by a neck. It was 4 ½ lengths back to 22-1 long shot Flying Punch in third.

“[Oliver’s Twist] didn’t break as good as I thought he would, so I just [wanted to] get a good position,” Delgado said. “I’m coming up to the favorite … we hook up at the three-eighths pole and it’s a horse race from the three-eighths pole to the wire.

“I can just remember right now it was basically who wanted it the most, like a championship fight,” he added. “Everybody was just throwing punches at each other and whoever could knock the other person out [would win]. We just went at it, me and Kent. It was a battle. You’re just trying to get your horse to max out.”

Pimlico hosted all but two of the first 35 runnings of the Tesio, including 1995, until the race was moved to Laurel in 2016. Renovations of Laurel’s main track forced the Tesio, run as a Grade 3 from 1988 to 1997, back to Pimlico last year.

Immediately after the Tesio, attention turned to the third Saturday in May. Oliver’s Twist, bred in Maryland by Boniface’s Bonita Farm, was sent off at 25-1 in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness. Under patient handling from Delgado, Oliver’s Twist settled in fourth for much of the race and waited for room at the top of the stretch before being set down for a drive and finishing just a half-length behind favored Timber Country, the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner that had run third to stablemate Thunder Gulch in the Kentucky Derby (G1).

Thunder Gulch wound up a neck behind Oliver’s Twist in the Preakness and would go on to win the Belmont (G1) and Travers (G1) and earn the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male.

“We started talking about the Breakness. Mr. Boniface did a great job to have him ready to peak for the Preakness. He had him primed and ready to go,” Delgado said. “A lot of people did not give us [much] of chance to win the race, and we really had a lot of confidence in the horse and he showed us. He didn’t let us down.

“To finish second in the Preakness, it was a win to me.”

Delgado has won 2,937 career races and still rides occasionally while assisting his wife, Alison, a Pimlico-based trainer. He has one win from 13 mounts this year, coming Feb. 10 at Laurel, and is named on Scorched by Fire in Race 9 Thursday, April 14.

The son of a jockey, Delgado has won 10 graded-stakes, eight of them coming at Maryland tracks, where he was based until moving his tack to California in 2012. He rode California Chrome in four of his first five starts, up for his April 2013 debuted as well as his first win in May 2013 and first stakes win in the July 2013 Graduation. California Chrome went on to win four Eclipse Awards, including Horse of the Year in 2014 and 2016.

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