Jockey Alberto Delgado reached into a paper bag and pulled out two winners yesterday at Laurel.
Before trainer Luigi Gino's 2-year-olds are ready to race, his sons-in-law -- Delgado and Mario Pino -- draw to see who will ride which horses. Delgado plucked the names of A Call to Rise and A Joyful Danielle, and both began their 3-year-old seasons with convincing triumphs.
A Call to Rise ($9.40) won a $19,000 allowance route by nine lengths, and A Joyful Danielle ($12.20) followed with a seven-length sprint victory over $16,000 claimers in the ninth race.
Track superintendent John Passero said his crews have removed about a half-inch of cushion off the racing surface in recent days, and fast times have returned to Laurel. Whether coincidence or not, the track also played well to inside speed; eight of 11 winners either had the lead or the rail.
The trend failed to elude Gino and Delgado, who planned to use A Call to Rise's rail post to their advantage. The gelding showed improved speed and he reached the first bend with a clear advantage.
"Speed, for some reason, was holding up tremendously," Delgado said. "I was surprised nobody tried to go with me."
A Call to Rise was never challenged, and Delgado later walked back to the jockeys' room thinking about A Joyful Danielle. "She's got good speed, but she's got the outside," he said. "I know there's a horse inside her who can keep us from getting over" to the rail.
Twenty minutes later, Camabara accelerated from mid-pack to deny A Joyful Danielle the lead. They ran together for a half-mile, before A Joyful Danielle moved ahead entering the stretch.
It was the filly's first race with Lasix. Maryland horses must be 3 years old to race with the anti-bleeding medication.
Both Gino-Delgado winners were bred by John Manfuso, father of Laurel and Pimlico co-owners Tom and Bob Manfuso. A Call to Rise is from the first crop of Poles Apart, a lightly raced son of Danzig and Family Planning whom John Manfuso said he bought "on his pedigree and his looks." Poles Apart, 9, became the third stallion at Manfuso's Osufnam Farm near Westminster, Md. -- joining Joyful Charger and Honest Note -- and he now has 16 of Manfuso's mares in foal.
It was the first two-victory day in four months for Delgado, who said he has hardened to talk that he lacks the aggressiveness that helped him become the nation's champion apprentice of 1982.
"I'm not a rider who jumps up and down and whips and slashes," he said. "I'm a smooth rider, and I try to go with the motion. I'm not going to change my riding style. People might be saying, 'He's done,' but I'm just as hungry now as I ever was. I'm like a backup quarterback; I want a shot to play again."
Delgado ranked 10th at Laurel and Pimlico in 1990 with 79 victories but won fewer than 9 percent of his rides. He said he intends to be more selective with his mounts this year.
"I was riding a lot of long shots, and what it did, it hurt me," Delgado said. "When I had a chance to get on some good horses, people would see my percentage and go for someone else. But it wasn't that I was riding bad, it's that I was riding bad horses. I want to change that. Hopefully, there'll be a lot more days like this."