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Updated on 11/05/2012 5:30PM
Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic: Royal Delta turns back all challengers, gives Smith record win
By Brad Free
ARCADIA, Calif. – The best horse won the best race on Breeders’ Cup Friday at Santa Anita, and she did it surprising fashion.
Royal Delta ($5.40) became the second filly or mare to win the Ladies’ Classic in consecutive years with a heads-up ride from Mike Smith, whose 16th Breeders’ Cup win makes him the all-time Breeders’ Cup leader.
Smith’s tactics contributed to Royal Delta’s victory in a race that unfolded strangely when the expected pacesetter Questing failed to show her speed and ultimately was eased.
Smith allowed Royal Delta to make the lead into the first turn of the 1 1/8-mile race, and the 4-year-old did the rest. She set a fast pace over a speed-favoring track, shook off every challenge, and won by 1 1/2 lengths over My Miss Aurelia. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to third-place finisher Include Me Out.
The main track Friday was kind to front-runners, and Smith was aware of that.
“That was definitely on my mind,” he said. “The track definitely favors speed.”
Bill Mott trains Royal Delta for owner Benjamin Leon, who purchased Royal Delta last fall for $8.5 million after she won the 2011 Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs. The 2012 Ladies’ Classic could be her last. Leon and Mott speculated that in 2013 she could try the $5 million BC Classic, after first giving the Dubai World Cup another try.
“She’s a filly that gets better as the year goes on,” Mott said. “If there was one to shoot for the moon with, it might be one like her.”
The Ladies’ Classic was considered the strongest of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup races, with seven Grade 1 winners, two champions and two unbeaten fillies. Awesome Feather and My Miss Aurelia both suffered their first loss.
Questing was expected to set the pace, but when she showed no early interest, Smith allowed Royal Delta to strut her stuff.
“She just jumped extremely well today,” Smith said. “She broke so well today that when you have a mare like her the best thing to do is let her do her thing. We were cruising right along, but she did it well within herself.”
Royal Delta usually runs from off the pace, but in the Ladies’ Classic she set the pace. She raced the opening half-mile in 45.81, and six furlongs in 1:09.80 while pressed by Love and Pride.
On the far turn, Love and Pride backed up, and into the stretch Royal Delta was handed a new challenge. My Miss Aurelia, who had a ground-saving trip under Corey Nakatani, angled outside into the lane, but could not get past the winner. Royal Delta won in 1:48.80.
Royal Delta is a strapping 4-year-old by Empire Maker, and Smith said that physically she compares to the mighty Zenyatta, whom Smith rode to victories in the Ladies’ Classic and Classic.
Royal Delta has won 9 of 15, and joins Bayakoa (1989-90) as the only two-time winner of the race.
As for runner-up My Miss Aurelia, who had raced only twice this year, her trainer Steve Asmussen was proud and disappointed. “I can’t tell you how much I admire Aurelia, but you don’t want to lose a race like that,” Asmussen said. “For her to do that with only two races, especially the way the race unfolded.”
My Miss Aurelia is expected to stay in training next year as a 4-year-old.
Grace Hall finished fourth, and is scheduled to be sold in Kentucky next week. Love and Pride finished fifth, followed by Awesome Feather, Class Included and Questing, who was eased.
Questing’s jockey Irad Ortiz said, “She didn’t want to try today.”
Great race. She seems to be getting better.
Royal Delta looked amazing winning it and she did it doing it lone speed. Nice run by both My Miss Aurelia and the CA runner Include Me Out. I think Royal Delta has secured the Older Female division but will have to see at the end of the weekend to see if she is strong enough to be in talk for Horse of the Year. The 3 year old filly division is wide open because Questing didn't bring her A-Game and My Miss Aurelia both of them being at Saratoga. My Miss Aurelia beat her in the G1 Cotillion. So interesting to see if MMA wins the award on just one G1 win I hope Questing is doing okay after her being eased in that Ladies Classic. Disappointing that Awesome Feather lost and didn't bring her A-game and the same for Love and Pride too. Nice to see Mike Smith pass by Jerry Bailey and his all-time win record for Breeders Cup wins. In all of his wins came in the original BC races. A living legend in Mike Smith IMO.
I'm aware of all of the questions regarding the performance, or lack thereof, of Questing, but has there been any news about Awesome Feather? For her to make such a poor showing, I'm wondering if any soundness issues recurred. Congrats to Royal Delta and Mike Smith for a great performance.
Smith wins with muco todat oo watch
smith sets bodemeister like fractions on the front end. but this horse pulls away from the comp at the end. only one of the best distaff fields ever assembled. 2 undefeated eclipse winners were tagged with their first loss.
you do understand she is an animal....not a Football player....rignt Jade? My dog didn't feel like going out in the rain this morning.... was not a slap in the face to her owner.
Questing was not injured according to the vet on site and was judged as 'not feeling like racing'. Really? At this level? Her not being ready for this race was a slap in the face of anybody who bet on her.
What a wonderful, wonderful horse race. Though frowned upon by many pundits for being called the "Lady's Classic," this race was truly that. My hat is off to Royal Delta who proved she is a true champion without bringing more controversy to the sport.
Someone please tell us what happened to Questing, and why she was eased so abruptly. I'm concerned about her well being. Thank you.
Her Highness, Royal Delta, was fabulous in this race. She made it obvious from the get-go that the cut on her leg that a lot of people were concerned about was not a factor at all. She established her dominance and never let it go. Congratulations to Royal Delta, Bill Mott, her owners and Mike Smith on an incredible victory. Mike Smith gets a special congratulations from me on his historic BC win. His personal knowledge of both Royal Delta and Santa Anita attributed to this win. Not as much as Royal Delta's talent, but it definitely contributed. Royal Delta is definitely royalty. She is impressive and it's an honor to be her fan. Congratulations, again, Royal Delta!
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