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Tizfiz outlasts a wide-eyed Marzelline to win the San Gorgonio.
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Tizfiz Sparkles in San Gorgonio Surprise

Trainer Rafael DeLeon, jockey Agapito Delgadillo score their biggest career wins.

Tizfiz, claimed for $50,000 by trainer Ralph DeLeon last fall, took the San Gorgonio Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) field all the way, outlasting Marzelline by a nose in an upset on the Santa Anita turf course Jan. 4.

DeLeon earned his first graded stakes win with the 9-1 shot Tizfiz, a 5-year-old daughter of Tiznow  who also registered her initial graded victory. Out of the Go for Gin mare Gin Running, Tizfiz was bred and owned by Diamond A Racing and trained by Richard Mandella until she was taken by DeLeon at Oak Tree's Santa Anita meet Oct. 4 in a grass race won by Tizfiz. Her new owners are Brian Kahn and the Richard J. O’Neill Trust.

Agapito Delgadillo, a 42-year-old jockey from Mexico City who mostly rides at Los Alamitos Race Course, guided Tizfiz to victory. Delgadillo milked easy fractions for the 1 1/8-mile test for fillies and mares and Tizfiz reached the finish line just in time over the closing Marzelline, the second choice ridden by Victor Espinoza. Solar Miss, with Garrett Gomez aboard, finished a half-length behind the runner-up in third. The final time was a slow 1:49.62 on firm ground.

“This is my biggest win," said the 47-year-old DeLeon, a native of Guatemala. "I just told Agapito, ‘No speed, let’s go, Agapito.’ I have 12 horses in training and this is the best one. I claimed her because my owners liked her and I thought she could run long. I don’t know what’s next. We’ll see how she comes out of this.”

The grade II winner Valbenny, the 2-1 favorite in the field of eight, was compromised by the lack of a true pace in the race. She ranged into contention on the outside in upper stretch  after trailing the pack for the first half-mile under Alex Solis, but lacked much punch in the final furlong and struggled home fourth. It was her ninth consecutive loss and denied trainer Bobby Frankel an eighth win in the San Gorgonio.

Tizfiz has raced three times for her new connections, winning twice and finishing second. She made her stakes debut in her previous start, the Queen of the Green at Turf Paradise on Dec. 6, and came away with a front-running half-length victory. Facing a similar situation against a better group of horses in the San Gorgonio, the bay mare did not disappoint.

Allowed to set the pace, Tizfiz slowed things down after a dawdling :24.96 opening quarter-mile, going :50.27 for the half and 1:14.54 for six furlongs. Challenged first by the stalking Belmont Cat in the lane, she responded to urging to edge away again in the homestretch and won in a determined final effort over Solar Miss on her inside and Marzelline on the outside.

Delgadillo's only previous graded stakes victory was aboard Jungle Prince in the 2006 Hollywood Turf Express (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood Park.

“Rafael told me to go to the front and ‘to go as slow as you can,’ and that’s what happened," Delgadillo said. "At the top of the stretch, it felt like I had a lot of horse but I didn’t know about the closers. I knew they’d be coming and I was hoping my filly would keep going. I won on her in Phoenix and I was looking forward to riding her here, but I didn’t know how she was going to fit with these horses.”

The victory was Tizfiz's fifth in 12 starts and boosted her earnings to $233,160 with winning purse of $90,000.

Tizfiz carried top weight of 118 pounds to victory as the third-longest shot in the field and paid $21, $9.80 and $7, topping a $2 exacta worth $91.60. The Irish-bred Marzelline, also seeking her first graded win for trainer Ben Cecil, returned $3.40 and $3. The consistent Solar Miss, out of the money just once in eight starts for trainer Kathy Walsh, was $4 to show.

Valbenny was one length back in fourth, followed by Belmont Cat, Meribel, Green Lyons, and High Heel Sneakers.