09/23/2013 4:51PM

Belmont Park: For Royal Delta, autumn is winning time

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Barbara D. Livingston
Royal Delta will try to win the Grade 1 Beldame Invitational for the second straight year Saturday.

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ELMONT, N.Y. – Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott maintains that Royal Delta is at her best in the fall of the year. Given how well she ran the last two races of the summer, that’s a pretty scary proposition for those taking her on in Saturday’s Grade 1, $400,000 Beldame Invitational at Belmont Park.

Royal Delta, who, for the record, is 4 for 5 in autumn races, finished her preparation for the Beldame by working a half-mile in 48.08 seconds Monday over the Belmont main track. She seemed a bit more relaxed than in some of her previous works, going in virtually equal quarter-mile fractions of 24.02 and 24.06 under exercise rider Rodolphe Brisset. She galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.10.

“I thought she went well,” Mott said. “We worked early [6:30 a.m.]. I don’t think the track was quite as fast as it was after the break.”

Royal Delta, who won last year’s Beldame by 9 1/2 lengths en route to her second straight victory in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, is coming off sensational Grade 1 victories in the Delaware Handicap on July 20 and the Personal Ensign on Aug. 25.

“We backed off of her after the last race,” said Mott, who was training Royal Delta at Saratoga before last week. “We were a little bit easier on her up there, just trying to preserve maybe a little bit more for the next one. We gave her a couple of pretty easy weeks up there after she ran – hope we weren’t too easy on her – just kind of looking ahead a little bit because after this, the big one’s coming.”

The big one, most likely, is the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita. Last year, Royal Delta also was pre-entered for the $5 million Classic against males and could be again this year, giving Mott and owner Benjamin Leon options.

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In 2011, when she was a 3-year-old, Royal Delta was soundly defeated in the Beldame by Havre de Grace, who went on to run in the Classic while Royal Delta won the first of her two Ladies’ Classics.

On Saturday, the major competition for Royal Delta figures to come from Princess of Sylmar, the leader of the 3-year-old filly division with victories in the Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks, and Alabama Stakes.

“You got to give her a lot of respect,” Mott said. “She’s won three Grade 1’s. You can’t take any of them for granted, and we don’t take her for granted.”

Others expected for the Beldame include And Why Not, Centring, and possibly Go Unbridled and Lady Cohiba.

◗ Little Mike, the defending Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, arrived in New York early Monday afternoon from Kentucky for Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational, where he will be ridden by Mike Smith.