09/29/2011 3:33PM

Belmont: Royal Delta faces ultimate test vs. Havre de Grace in Beldame

Barbara D. Livingston
The 3-year-old Royal Delta (above) will take on 4-year-old star Havre de Grace in Saturday's Beldame.

ELMONT, N.Y. – On Monday morning, after watching Royal Delta put in her final workout for Saturday’s Grade 1, $350,000 Beldame Invitational, trainer Bill Mott was asked if he felt his 3-year-old filly was up to taking on Havre de Grace, the leading older filly and mare in training.

“She’s very good right now,’’ Mott said of Royal Delta. “We might give her a challenge.’’

Though Mott never uttered these words, it sure seemed like he was saying, “Bring her on.’’

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The game will indeed be on Saturday when Royal Delta and Havre de Grace clash in the Beldame, a 1 1/8-mile race that awards the winner an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic to be run on Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs. Mott won last year’s Ladies’ Classic with Unrivaled Belle, who defeated the eventual 3-year-old filly champion Blind Luck.

Royal Delta comes into the Beldame off a dominant 5 1/2-length victory in the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga. It was her fourth win from six starts and confirmed that she definitely needed her effort in the Coaching Club American Oaks, a race she went into a bit short having missed the Mother Goose due to a bruised foot.

Judging by her recent workouts, Royal Delta appears ready to fire another big race at Belmont, where last fall she won a one-mile maiden race by 12 lengths.

Jose Lezano will ride Royal Delta from post 2.

Havre de Grace was deemed the 3-5 morning-line favorite by New York Racing Association linemaker Eric Donovan. Havre de Grace is deserving of such respect based on her body of work this year, which includes a 1 1/4-length victory over males in the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga on Sept. 3. She is 4 for 5 this year with her lone loss being a nose decision to Blind Luck in the Delaware Handicap.

Larry Jones, the trainer of Havre de Grace, said her effort in the Woodward “surprisingly took little out of her.’’ However, Jones has trained her a bit differently, putting two slower-than-normal works into her.

“I think we’ve got her right now as good as she can be so we’re just leaving her there,’’ Jones said.

Jones and his owner, Rick Porter, are hoping to use the Beldame as a stepping-stone to the Breeders’ Cup Classic against males on Nov. 5. They are also hoping Havre de Grace doesn’t have to go all-out to get the victory, but said the filly is prepared to do so if necessary.

“We’re hoping it doesn’t take 110 percent effort to do it,’’ Jones said. “She is sitting on that kind of performance and she will do it if we need it. Billy’s horse seems to be doing very well and is on the improve and is maturing.’’

Life At Ten won the Beldame last year, but she has not run well since. After finishing 18 1/2 lengths behind Blind Luck and Havre de Grace in the Delaware Handicap, Life At Ten was freshened up. Two of her last three works have come in blinkers and she will race in them Saturday.

“I’d be surprised if Havre de Grace didn’t win, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Life At Ten ran very well,’’ Pletcher said. “We would need everything to really go our way. From the one hole with blinkers on I’d be surprised if we weren’t controlling the pace for a while. We’re going to let her do her thing, hopefully, she gets brave on the lead and we’ll see what happens.’’

Banker’s Buy and Satans Quick Chick complete the field.

Beldame Invitational Field



Life At Ten J. Velazquez 
123 Lbs
T. Pletcher


Royal Delta J. Lezcano 
120 Lbs
W. Mott


Banker's Buy C. Nakatani 
123 Lbs
N. Zito


Satans Quick Chick E. Prado 
123 Lbs
J. Odintz


Havre de Grace R. Dominguez 
123 Lbs
J. Jones