Royal Delta Bigger, Stronger for Sabin
Royal Delta defended her title in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (G1) last November at Santa Anita, but don’t count on history repeating itself at Gulfstream Park in Sunday’s $100,000 Sabin (G3).
The daughter of Empire Maker followed up her 2011 Ladies’ Classic triumph with a distant second-place finish in her 4-year-old debut last February in the Sabin, finishing eight lengths behind favored Awesome Maria. In the aftermath of Royal Delta’s 2012 Breeders’ Cup score, trainer Bill Mott has seen physical evidence that the 5-year-old champion is ready to offer a better performance this year in the 1 1/16-mile stakes for fillies and mares.
“She’s stronger than last year. I think the campaign at 4 was easier than the campaign at 3. She beat older mares in the (2011) Breeders’ Cup. I think she was a little tired, a little light (last year),” Mott said. “She’s a bigger, stronger filly this year. I think she’s grown into her frame a bit more.”
A bigger, stronger Royal Delta is almost unimaginable for a two-time Eclipse Award winner who has towered over the competition during her career. In addition to winning the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic twice, the Kentucky-bred star has scored stakes victories in the Beldame (G1), Alabama (G1), Delaware Handicap (G2), Black-Eyed Susan (G2) and Fleur de Lis (G2).
Purchased at auction by Besilu Stables, LLC for $8.5 million following her 2011 Ladies’ Classic score, Royal Delta will once again prep for the $10 million Dubai World Cup (March 30) in the Sabin. Last year, she followed up her runner-up finish in the Sabin with a ninth-place finish against an international group of male stars in the World Cup.
“I think she was a victim of a rough trip over there,” Mott said. “She went into the race well. It was just that she was a victim of bad racing luck.”
Royal Delta stumbled at the start of the 1 ¼ -mile World Cup over the synthetic surface at Meydan Racecourse and was never a factor while finishing 8 ½ lengths behind the winner.
“With better racing luck, I think we’d have had a better finish,” Mott said. “I’m not saying she would have won. I’m just saying she would have had a closer finish.”
Royal Delta is scheduled to be ridden Sunday by Mike Smith, who won four of five starts since becoming her jockey following last year’s World Cup disappointment.