10/24/2012 2:38PM

Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic: Royal Delta among 7 Grade 1 winners likely to start

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Benoit & Associates
Martin Garcia rode Love and Pride to this victory in the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes, but John Velazquez will be aboard in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Royal Delta will run in a Breeders’ Cup race next week at Santa Anita. The question is – what race?

Royal Delta is the early favorite in an outstanding field pre-entered in the $2 million Ladies’ Classic on Nov. 2. But she also was pre-entered in the BC Classic on Nov. 3, allowing for a possibility of facing colts and geldings for a $5 million purse.

[BREEDERS' CUP 2012: Race-by-race coverage, video, early odds]

First preference for Royal Delta is the Ladies’ Classic. Trainer Bill Mott and owner Benjamin Leon both have indicated she is more likely to face her own gender.

“I think we’re leaning toward the Ladies’ Classic,” Mott said Wednesday on an NTRA conference call. “We just wanted to leave an option open … just have a look at [the Classic]. Mr. Leon was interested in having a look at the race.”

If she runs in the Ladies’ Classic, as expected, the race will not be a pushover for Royal Delta in her bid to join Bayakoa (1989-90) as the second repeat winner in the race. She won the 2011 Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs.

Mike Smith would ride Royal Delta in the Ladies’ Classic, which attracted nine pre-entrants. Two are expected to go in other races.

First preference for In Lingerie is the Filly and Mare Turf; first preference for Hastings Park shipper Class Included is the Filly and Mare Sprint. That leaves a field of seven confirmed for the Ladies’ Classic, considered the strongest race of the 2012 BC.

[BREEDERS' CUP 2012: Pre-entered fields with odds and comments]

All seven likely starters are Grade 1 winners, three are champions and two are unbeaten. Royal Delta was voted champion 3-year-old filly one year ago. My Miss Aurelia is 6 for 6 including the 2011 Juvenile Fillies, which clinched her championship. Awesome Feather is 10 for 10 including the 2010 Juvenile Fillies, which earned her the championship.

Royal Delta, romping winner of the Grade 1 Beldame at Belmont Park last out, is the 5-2 favorite on Daily Racing Form’s early odds line.

Awesome Feather is 9-2 second choice.

Jockey assignments have solidified for most starters. Trainer Todd Pletcher confirmed Wednesday that John Velazquez will regain the mount on Love and Pride. Martin Garcia rode her to victory in the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes in a one-shot deal; Velazquez rode Love and Pride to victory in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga.

Grace Hall is the only confirmed starter without a confirmed rider. Trainer Tony Dutrow said Wednesday the assignment was undetermined.

Three riders that have won on Grace Hall are under consideration – Javier Castellano, Ramon Dominguez and Brian Hernandez.

The expected Ladies’ Classic lineup, with jockeys and listed in order of early odds, follows: Royal Delta, Smith; Awesome Feather, Jeffrey Sanchez; Questing, Irad Ortiz; Love and Pride, Velazquez; My Miss Aurelia, Corey Nakatani; Grace Hall, no rider; and Include Me Out, Joe Talamo.