09/29/2012 3:15PM

Belmont Park: Royal Delta heads to Breeders' Cup off powerful Beldame score

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Barbara D. Livingston
Royal Delta pressed It's Tricky on the lead early in the Beldame before pulling away under jockey Mike Smith.

ELMONT, N.Y. - A few days after Royal Delta won the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs, Benjamin Leon spent $8.5 million to buy the filly at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

Part of it was as a future broodmare prospect. Part of it was for the kind of breathtaking performance Royal Delta is capable of giving, one that she gave winning Saturday’s Grade 1, $400,000 Beldame Invitational at Belmont Park.

Dragging Mike Smith past It’s Tricky with a half-mile remaining, Royal Delta galloped to a 9 1/2-length victory in the Beldame, likely sending her to Santa Anita as the favorite for next month’s $2 million Ladies’ Classic. The Beldame was a Win and You’re In for the Ladies Classic, though Royal Delta had already earned a spot by virtue of her Delaware Handicap victory in July.

Though her dominant effort Saturday might have some wondering if Leon would run Royal Delta against the males in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, he said that would be something he might consider next year as he intends to run her again as a 5-year-old.

“What we’re scheduled for is the Ladies’ Classic this year and as long as she’s healthy we intend to race her all of next year and then we can consider that at the end of next year,” Leon said.

Royal Delta, who won last year’s Ladies’ Classic after being beaten 8 1/2 lengths by Havre de Grace in this race last year, gave trainer Bill Mott his first victory in the Beldame.

And she did it in style.

Under Mike Smith, Royal Delta stalked It’s Tricky, who got loose on the lead after Cash for Clunkers hit the left side of the gate and was last.

Smith had Royal Delta just off It’s Tricky’s flank through a quarter in 24.09 seconds and a half-mile 46.09. Leaving the half-mile pole, Royal Delta took the lead and began to widen as she came to the quarter pole. In the stretch, it was just a matter of how far and the margin was 9 1/2 lengths while being geared down inside the sixteenth pole.

Royal Delta covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.80 and returned $3.70 to win.

“Halfway down the backside my mare really gathered herself,” Smith said. “She was moving at that point so much better than It’s Tricky; he was having to push her along to keep pace with me. Now she’s got me thinking I’m hoping I ain’t going too, too fast to set it up for someone behind me.”

Mott will now seek to win his fifth Ladies’ Classic and third straight (he won in 2010 with Unrivaled Belle). Typically, Mott has won that race after finishing second in the Beldame. He will have to try a new approach this year.

“It was awesome, it was really spectacular,” Mott said of Royal Delta’s performance. “I hope she can repeat that in the Breeders’ Cup.”