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Royal Delta wraps up championship with Ladies' Classic
|Royal Delta proved herself the true Queen of American racing on Friday
Besilu Stable's Royal Delta proved herself a true champion on Friday when
successfully defending her title in the Grade 1, $1,818,000
Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic at Santa Anita Park despite being taken out of
her usual game.
"Spectacular," trainer Bill Mott stated. "She broke sharply and was out on
the lead and just ran the race that way. She's a talented mare to be able to run
well and win no matter how the race develops. I was a little concerned when they
were throwing up those fractions, but she kept going and ran them off their
Three-year-old Questing, the expected pacesetter in the 1 1/4-mile contest,
broke slow and immediately fell to the back of the eight-distaffer field before
being pulled up and vanned off. Jockey Mike Smith didn't panic as the normally
rallying Royal Delta moved up to take command entering the turn. The dark bay
filly led the way in :22 3/5, :45 4/5 and 1:09 4/5 while Love and Pride stalked
to her outside.
Entering the stretch, Love and Pride began to fade and was easily swamped by
first Include Me Out and then My Miss Aurelia. All the while Royal Delta kept
motoring on the front end while saving ground on the rail. My Miss Aurelia
loomed large in the lane but could never catch the relentless Royal Delta, who
completed 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track in 1:48 4/5.
"She jumped extremely well today and her best races are whenever you can let
her do her thing, let her get into her stride and normally that's laying a bit
off the pace," Smith said. "She broke so well today. Johnny Lopez, the man that
had me in the gate, did a great job with her. He had her standing great and when
you have a mare with a stride that she has and as talented as she is the best
thing to do is stay out of her way and that's what I did. We were cruising right
along but she was doing well within herself."
Smith is no stranger to the Ladies' Classic winner's circle, guiding 2010
Horse of the Year and three-time champion Zenyatta there in 2008, one year
before she took the Classic.
"She has that kind of stride," Smith remarked when asked to compare Royal
Delta to Zenyatta. "She has a tremendous stride. She does it with ease. I told
Bill I was going :48 out there, and he said I think you went :45 and I looked at
the clock and I was like, 'Wow!'
|Mike Smith achieved a record 16th win in a Breeders' Cup event when taking the Ladies' Classic aboard Royal Delta
"That's how easy she does things, she has no wasted action, everything moves
so fluidly. She actually waits for competition, and once they get to her she
locks on them and seems like she can get around them again."
Royal Delta handed Smith a prize of his own in addition to rewarding her many
backers with payouts of $5.40, $3.60 and $2.60 as the 8-5 favorite.
"It's incredible to be with the riders on this list; truly an honor," Smith
said after recording his 16th Breeders' Cup victory to becoming the winningest
rider in the series. "I hope to be around a few more years to add to it.
"I really had a lot of confidence in her. She trains the way that she ran.
Just amazing," he added.
My Miss Aurelia was game to finish 1 1/2 lengths behind Royal Delta in second
while suffering her first loss in seven races. Winner of last year's Breeders'
Cup Juvenile Fillies, and subsequently named champion two-year-old filly off
that score, the Smart Strike sophomore entered the Ladies' Classic owning just
two starts this year -- a three-length win in the Mandys Gold and a head score
in the Grade 1 Cotillion.
"I hate that she didn't win, but I just love this filly. She never blinks. I
wish she could have won, but it was a beautiful race," trainer Steve Asmussen
praised My Miss Aurelia.
"My filly ran a hell of a race," jockey Corey Nakatani agreed. "I wasn't
surprised to see Mike on the lead. I was in good position the whole way. She
gave me everything, and I thought I had a shot there for a while.
Congratulations to Bill Mott; he has a great horse. But I was on a great one,
|Royal Delta dug in when challenged in the Ladies' Classic stretch
(Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos)
Include Me Out finished another 1 1/4 lengths back in third and was followed
under the wire by Grace Hall, Love and Pride, Awesome Feather and Class
"I was never comfortable," trainer Chad Brown admitted about champion Awesome
Feather's effort. "In a race like this, a quarter of a mile in, and I'm not
comfortable with the way my horse is moving, I'm in trouble.
"Not to make any excuses, but she probably didn't care for the surface today.
She's much better than that. I can see her getting beat; it's a star-studded
field. But she was never really in the race and that's not like her. She's been
in every race she's ever been in. She's been there, somewhere up front. The
jockey felt the same way. We'll have to regroup."
"She was just never comfortable today," jockey Jeffrey Sanchez concurred. "At
the three-eighths pole I asked her and she didn't really want to go. She never
got into the bit and usually she does."
Questing was reportedly doing fine following the race despite being vanned
"She's fine. She never was traveling well. She was never in the bridle, so
(jockey) Irad (Ortiz Jr.) just pulled her up," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin updated
Questing's condition. "She got on the van sound, got off the van sound; she just
didn't feel like running today. We'll have her scoped to make sure everything
else is OK. We're disappointed, but we had a great year with her."
"She didn't even want to run today. She never tried. I think she'll be OK,
she just didn't try," Ortiz explained.
"There were no obvious abnormalities. In other words she had no injury to her
limbs on veterinarian inspection," Dr. Wayne McIlwraith confirmed.
|My Miss Aurelia (middle) and
Include Me Out (left) reputed themselves well against Royal
(Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos)
Royal Delta wrapped up her four-year-old campaign in style in the Ladies'
Classic, taking four of seven races while placing in two others this season. The
Empire Maker filly's only off-the-board placing came when trying the synthetic
Tapeta at Meydan in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup in late March.
That race followed Royal Delta's season-opening second in the Grade 3 Sabin,
and the dark bay was given plenty of time to recover from her overseas
experience before running in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill
Downs on June 16, which she won by eight lengths.
Following a gutsy neck score in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap, where she
conceded nine pounds to runner-up Tiz Miz Sue, Royal Delta was upset by Love and
Pride in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Handicap at Saratoga. Washy in the post
parade, she missed by only a half-length but never looked a serious threat to
win during the stretch run.
The dark bay lass quickly rebounded last out with a 9 1/2-length romp in the
Grade 1 Beldame Invitational, a race she finished second in last year to
eventual Horse of the Year Havre de Grace. With a second Ladies' Classic win,
Royal Delta joins the great Bayakoa as the only two-time winner of the race. She
also moved herself firmly in contention for Horse of the Year honors, which also
hinges on Saturday's result in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
|Royal Delta found herself in the Ladies' Classic winner's circle for a second straight year
"The decision was very much influenced by Mr. Mott, and we always thought
that she would always run in the Ladies', but we had the option of
pre-registering her for the Classic, which we did, in case things happened and
we changed our minds," Benjamin Leon of Besilu Stables explained in regards to
Royal Delta being pre-entered to both the Classic and Ladies' Classic. "The
original decision was to have her run in the Ladies' Classic, which she did.
"Our plan is to run her for next year," he added. "Our intention is to take
her to Dubai to give her one more shot with Mike Smith in order to become the
world champ at the Dubai World Cup and we will take it one day at a time and
make decisions after that World Cup."
"She has to remain healthy and we've got big plans for her, but, I don't
know, if there is ever a filly that you could shoot for the moon with I would
say it would probably be one like her," Mott remarked.
Royal Delta earned an Eclipse Award in 2011 by going 4-1-1 from seven starts,
including wins in the Ladies' Classic, Grade 1 Alabama and Grade 2 Black-Eyed
Susan, while placing in the Beldame and Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks. Her
career mark now stands at 15-9-3-1, $3,703.851.
|Royal Delta is almost guaranteed the Eclipse Award as champion older female
Royal Delta was campaigned by her breeder, Palides Investments N.V. Inc.,
through last year's Breeders' Cup triumph then passed through the sales ring for
the first time just three days after that score. She sold for a sale-topping
$8.5 million at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale to Benjamin Leon's
Besilu Stables, which was the most ever paid for a horse in training at
Keeneland November and the most paid for any horse at the sale since broodmare
Playful Act brought $10.5 million in 2007.
The previous Keeneland record for a
horse in training was the $6.1 million paid by Aaron Jones for the graded
stakes-winning colt Half Ours in 2006.
The Kentucky-bred Royal Delta descends from a black-type rich family as a
daughter of the A.P. Indy mare Delta Princess. That one would capture six
stakes, including three Grade 3 contests, during her time on track while racking
up nearly $750,000 in earnings. Royal Delta's second dam is Group 2 victress
Lyphard's Delta, who would go on in the breeding shed to produce Grade/Group 1
winners Biondetti and Indy Five Hundred.
Lyphard's Delta is herself a daughter of Proud Delta, who was honored as
champion older female in 1976, and counts as a full brother Grade 3 hero and
sire Proud Debonair.
Royal Delta has a three-year-old full brother named Empire Way, whose best
achievement to date is a second to dual classic winner I'll Have Another in the
Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis.
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