01/08/2013 6:45PM

2012 Eclipse Awards: Royal Delta

photo by: Barbara D. Livingston

The list of horses to win the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic twice is a very short one: Bayakoa (1989-90) and Royal Delta (2011-12). Given the exalted place that Bayakoa occupies in the pantheon of American racing, it says quite a bit about where Royal Delta stands.

Skillfully managed by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott for the Besilu Stable of south Florida health-care tycoon Benjamin Leon, Royal Delta overcame a slow start to her 2012 and emerged as a standout in the older filly-mare ranks. Leon bought Royal Delta for $8.5 million at the Keeneland sales shortly after she won the 2011 BC Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs to conclude her championship 3-year-old season, then decided to keep her with Mott, who trained her at 2 and 3 for the Palides Investments of the late Prince Saud bin Khaled of Saudi Arabia.

The year started with a distant second-place finish behind Awesome Maria in the Grade 3 Sabin Handicap at Gulfstream Park in late February and was followed five weeks later by a ninth-place finish behind male rivals in the $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan.

But upon returning to the United States and getting back into action 11 weeks later, Royal Delta began staking her claim to a second Eclipse Award. United with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith for the remainder of the year, she won the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill by eight lengths, earning a career-high 110 Beyer Speed Figure, and then followed that up with a gritty triumph in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap in July.

Next came her only defeat in the post-Dubai segment of her campaign, a half-length loss as the runner-up to Love and Pride in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga in late August. But then she rebounded with a 9 1/2-length romp in the Grade 1 Beldame Invitational on Sept. 29 at Belmont Park in her final prep for a title defense in the Breeders’ Cup.

“It was awesome,” Mott told Daily Racing Form after the Beldame. “It was really spectacular. I hope she can repeat that in the Breeders’ Cup.”
She did, pretty much. Although her final margin was not as large, Royal Delta showed a new front-running dimension – and her familiar traits of class and courage – in leading throughout in the Nov. 2 Ladies’ Classic at Santa Anita, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over previously unbeaten My Miss Aurelia in a field of eight. Include Me Out and My Miss Aurelia both made threatening runs at her, but Royal Delta dug in and lengthened her stride when it counted.

For the year, Royal Delta won 4 of 7 starts for earnings of $2,009,251, bringing her career totals to 9 for 15 and $3,703,851.

Royal Delta is a dark bay 2008 foal by Empire Maker out of the A.P. Indy mare Delta Princess. She was bred in Kentucky by Palides.

Leon and Mott have plotted a 5-year-old campaign for Royal Delta, with the main goals being the Dubai World Cup and the Breeders’ Cup. The mare is spending the winter at Payson Park in south Florida.