01/08/2014 1:02PM

2013 Eclipse Awards: Royal Delta



                                                                photo by: Barbara D. Livingston

The bar was set high in 2013 for Royal Delta, the 2011 champion 3-year-old filly and 2012 champion older female with two Breeders’ Cup wins already on her résumé. At age 5, Royal Delta, owner Benjamin Leon, and trainer Bill Mott reached again for the stars. Her campaign began stylishly on Feb. 17 at Gulfstream Park. Making her first start since winning the BC Ladies’ Classic 3 1/2 months earlier at Santa Anita, Royal Delta was favored at odds-on in the Grade 3 Sabin. She did not disappoint. Royal Delta hopped at the start, jockey Mike Smith straightened her out, and the rest was history. Royal Delta crushed four rivals, winning by five lengths and setting her up for a second try at the $10 million Dubai World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

A year earlier in Dubai, Royal Delta finished ninth while compromised by racing luck. In 2013, Smith put Royal Delta on the lead in the world’s richest race. If she was good enough, she would be gone. She was not. Royal Delta struggled over the synthetic surface, backed up in the stretch, and finished 10th of 12. Her 20 1/4-length loss was the worst finish of her career. The synthetic surface provided a convenient alibi. Or maybe, Royal Delta was wearing down. Mott gave Royal Delta a 2 1/2-month freshening and pointed her for the same Churchill Downs race in which she romped one year earlier – the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis. Her runner-up comeback effort was puzzling. Though she won the race by eight lengths in 2012, Royal Delta was surprisingly flat in the 2013 Fleur de Lis, which was run on June 15. She finished second, losing by five lengths and earning a low 82 Beyer Figure. But the race was only a prep. Mott’s mastery at using a prep race to prepare for higher objectives came into play. He shipped Royal Delta to Delaware Park for the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap, the same race she won a year earlier by a neck. This time, Royal Delta silenced doubters. She won the July 20 Delaware Handicap by 10 3/4 lengths, and earned a triple-digit Beyer. Royal Delta was back on top of the filly-and-mare division. Next was the Grade 1 Personal Ensign on Aug. 25 at Saratoga, which Royal Delta won by 4 1/2 lengths, eased up at the wire. It was her 12th victory.

The late-season objective for Royal Delta was a bid at an unprecedented third win in the BC Ladies’ Classic, restored to its original name, the BC Distaff. In her final prep race Sept. 28 at Belmont Park, Royal Delta finished second behind the streaking 3-year-old filly Princess of Sylmar in the Grade 1 Beldame. Once again for Royal Delta, the race was only a prep. Royal Delta ended her campaign, and her career, finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup. The bar was set high, and though her career ended with two defeats, she finished the 2013 season having won three races and $1,107,725 from seven starts. Royal Delta will go down as one of racing’s all-time leading fillies and mares. Royal Delta retired as the all-time leading money earner by the stallion Empire Maker. She won 12 races (six Grade 1’s) and $4,811,126 from 22 starts. Royal Delta is scheduled to be bred to Galileo in spring 2014.