Douglas girls’ soccer standout Serena Delgado grew up around horses.
Both her grandfathers were jockeys. Her father, Alberto Delgado, rode to a second-place finish at the 1995 Preakness. Her uncle, Mario Pino, has won more than 6,000 races, ranking in the top 10 all time.
Serena could have easily gone into the family business.
“As a kid, she played basketball, soccer — she was good at everything she tried,” said Alberto Delgado, 48. “When she was about 7, we put her on a horse, and she was a natural.
“She’s fearless, and she would have been awesome. It’s in her blood. The way she sat on a horse — you either have it or you don’t, and she had it. And I’m a really good teacher, so she would have been well taught.”
There was only one problem. Her mother, Julie Delgado, who had lived through all the injuries with her then-husband, was adamantly against her daughter becoming a jockey — and not without reason.
“We were together 30 years,” Julie said, “and he was busted up [injured], top to bottom.”
In fact, it was just last year that Alberto Delgado thought he was going to die when he got thrown off his horse and got kicked in the head.
“Normally, when that happens, you’re not making it,” said Alberto Delgado, who sustained a concussion. “I was lucky. Two days later, I was back racing.”
Serena is just as tough. At 5-3 and competing against many bigger players, the junior is a starting central defender on a Douglas team that is ranked No. 2 in the nation by MaxPreps.
Born in Maryland, Serena has been a varsity starter since her freshman year. She moved to South Florida with her mom six months ago, in part to further her soccer career.
“She’s little, but she’s very physical and fast,” Julie Delgado said. “When she made the varsity as a freshman — and she was a couple inches shorter back then — some of the other parents started saying: ‘She is going to get killed. What is the coach doing putting her out there?’
“But after the first game, she was knocking kids over who were twice her size. All the other parents apologized.”
Alberto Delgado hasn’t been to South Florida yet to watch his daughter — he’s busy competing in California at Santa Anita, still hoping for another shot at a Triple Crown win that eluded him the last time he got the opportunity, which was that storied race of ’95.
He was aboard Oliver’s Twist, a 25-1 long shot, and was just 100 yards away from the upset when the betting favorite, Timber Country, caught his horse in front of more than 100,000 fans and a national TV audience.
Oliver’s Twist finished second by a half-length.
“It felt like a nose to us,” Alberto Delgado said.
Serena was born one year and one day later, and she has seen that race on video many times.
“I wish he would have won,” Serena said. “It’s crazy how little he got beat by and the difference between first and second.”
Serena said she wanted to be a jockey when she was younger.
“It’s an exciting sport,” she said. “I’ve been to the track many, many times. When my dad wins, I get to go to the winner’s circle and take a photo next to the horse and my dad.”
Serena, who never won a state title in Maryland, may have her own championship photos to take soon. Douglas finished the regular season 19-0 and is an obvious threat to win a state title on Feb. 9.
“She anchors our defense,” Douglas coach Stu Katz said of Delgado, who has a 3.1 grade-point average and is being recruited by North Florida. “If we win state, she will have a lot to do with that accomplishment.”