11/01/2013 8:04PM

Breeders' Cup: For Royal Delta and Princess of Sylmar, an unfortunate end to a fine season

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Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Bill Mott (right) with Royal Delta after her fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. A decision on whether she will race next year will be made in a couple of weeks, Mott said.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The two beasts of the East, Royal Delta and Princess of Sylmar, faded away in Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff as gently as the late-afternoon sunshine slipping from the Southern California sky.

With a half-mile to run in the Distaff, Royal Delta, a two-time champion and two-time Breeders’ Cup winner, already had started losing position. She finished fourth. Princess of Sylmar, so special winning the Kentucky Oaks, the Alabama, and the Beldame, barely got out of a gallop, checking in last of six.

Take nothing away from either horse – each has been wonderful -- but for both, defeat had a cost. What might have been the last start of 5-year-old Royal Delta’s career turned out to be the worst dirt race she ever has run.

[BREEDERS' CUP FRIDAY: Video replays and race results]

Princess of Sylmar’s owner-breeder, Edward Stanco, had seriously considered calling a halt to his filly’s campaign after she beat Royal Delta in the Beldame last month. A win in the Distaff would have thrust her into Horse of the Year talk. Instead, Beholder’s emphatic victory Friday might have stolen the 3-year-old filly crown away from Princess of Sylmar.

Stanco had keenly watched the day’s main-track races. London Bridge rallied from well behind the leaders to win the Marathon, but that 2 1/2-circuit navigation of the Santa Anita main track is too unusual to fit comfortably into the pattern of race shapes Friday.

Front-runners dominated the other main-track races. Stanco, whose horse wins her races in their second half, had noticed.

“I’ve been watching the races," Stanco said as the Distaff field left the paddock for the racetrack. "I’ve been paying attention. I know it’s a speed-favoring track. Good horses can overcome that. She’s never been touched in a Grade 1 race. No one has gotten close to her.”

Probably it was not just the racetrack that beat Princess of Sylmar. She was making her eighth start of the year. Those crushing victories looked easy, but this is the time of year they take their toll.

For Princess of Sylmar, 2014 will offer a chance at redemption; her connections have said they intend to race her next year. Nothing is official yet, but Royal Delta turns 6 on Jan. 1. There’s a decent chance we’ve seen her long, elegant frame dance onto the track for the last time.

“That’s something that won’t be decided for a couple weeks,” said Bill Mott, who trains Royal Delta for owner Benjamin Leon.

Mott’s disappointment after the Distaff played only around the corners of his face. He has been in too many big races to be shocked by unanticipated failure.

“I thought she worked very well coming into this race,” he said.

True, Royal Delta wowed clockers with her effortless display of morning speed on multiple mornings in the weeks after her Beldame loss and before the Distaff. She was favored to win her third Distaff – and become the only horse to do so – and Mott had used the Beldame merely to prep in the past. But all year, tiny cracks had showed in Royal Delta’s armor, if you looked hard enough to see them. Friday’s was her 22nd start. She twice had traveled to Dubai. It was two long years ago that she won the Distaff – then the Ladies' Classic – for the first time.

“I’ve been very lucky to have been around quite a few good horses," Mott said. "It’s always been very difficult to come back and have that third year."

A year ago, Royal Delta skipped to the lead on a speed-favoring track here and controlled affairs from the start. Mike Smith told Mott today he asked Royal Delta for a little more on the first turn and got no response.

“Maybe it’s time for her now,” Mott said. “Maybe it’s time.”

Gary Camejo More than 1 year ago
That great race Royal Delta should be............RETIRED no questions asked.
John More than 1 year ago
Id rather see them retire too soon than too late. Each of these fillys is going to make a great broodmare to some nice pedigree, AP Indy, Curlin, Unusual Heat................... All 3 are champions, just because one fires one day and the other 2 mis-fire, I see them all as winners and champs. Beholder just developed at the right time after being given some time to grow up and she showed us all a dynamic turn of foot in the biggest race !
Kyle Stasierowski More than 1 year ago
Dear Mr. Hersh, I personally feel that it's going to be sad if Benjamin Leon decides to retire Royal Delta after her 4th place finish in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, but it's not my decision to make regarding whether or not to bring Royal Delta back next year. Sincerely, Kyle Stasierowski 28-year-old loyal TVG viewer, HRTV Live Feed viewer, and DRF FaceBook friend and Twitter follower from Alden, New York
Kyle Stasierowski More than 1 year ago
Dear Mr. Hersh, I personally feel that it's going to be sad if Benjamin Leon decides to retire Royal Delta after her 4th place finish in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, but it's not my decision to make regarding whether or not to bring Royal Delta back next year. Sincerely, Kyle Stasierowski 28-year-old loyal TVG viewer, HRTV Live Feed viewer, and DRF FaceBook friend and Twitter follower from Alden, New York
John More than 1 year ago
Im wondering if maybe the Breeders Cup could be split each year, maybe Friday run in the east, with the fillys, 2 yr olds?...........then the older, colts and geldings on Saturday in the west, then vise versa each year. Home track can yield an advantage ! When is the BC going to wake up and realize the 2yr olds in the USA dont have a shot against Europe 2yr olds with the lasix ban ! They train on lasix, let them run on it ! WE HAVE NO SHOT OTHER WISE ! 2 years in a row, how many 2 yr old races did we win on turf ?????????.......ZERO !
John More than 1 year ago
Its simple, all the clockers and trainers said in the weeks coming up to the Breeders Cup, Beholder had grown into a full sized filly/mare and wasnt the little 2yr old from last season ! Plus, she threw a tantrum the day Princess of Sylmar caught her in Kentucky, even tossing Garret Gomez and running off, losing by 3/4 after a fast pace. SHE WAS THE BEST HORSE, and is a viable option to HORSE of the YEAR !
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
I would hesitate to call either RD and PoS loss, in the same race, unfortunate, as both appear well albeit exhausted. They both came out able to race next year, but both are due long rests after all they have given everyone in 2013. God bless these two magnificent fillies for their beauty, charm and talent.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
Every horse has a right to throw a clunker it happens to the best of them. PRINCESS had her clunker as did most of the other pletcher horses. Now ROYAL DELTA has thrown a few clunkers and although she has looked good beating up on lesser competition this year she was not as good as last year and just like many mott horses when they freak they are monsters but they throw clunkers when you least expect.also RYAL DELTA looked a little hot and was clearly sweating more than the others.
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
I noted that to my wife as i watched her get ready to load in the gate in front of me.
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
This is the end of the horseracing season.the breeders cup should weigh heavily in deciding the champion.many horses (ex.game on dude)run great all year and falter in the year end races and get exposed.beholder ran 2nd in the oaks and won the distaff impressively.tough call for 3 year old and older fiily/mare championship
Joyce Johnson Groome More than 1 year ago
I was really sick of hearing, through the whole broadcast , how they belittled POS's win over Royal Delta in the Beldame! Royal Delta is obviously not what she was! As for POS, I watched her and I don't think that she ever took to the sandy track that all the jocks were complaining about all day! No excuses though! Beholder was the best yesterday but she is used to that track! If the POS or Delta were on their A game, she would have never won! POS should and will still get best 3 year old! She raced against better competition,she won the Oaks and challenged Delta in the Beldame instead of taking the much easier road by running in the Cottillion! I give Stanco a lot of credit! He could have taken the money and ran! He would have been up about $660,000 for running in the Cottillion instead of down to about $100,000 for running in the Beldame and the Breeders Cup! So many owners duck and run any more! It was refreshing to see an owner stand up to the competition! I think Royal Delta will retire! POS will be back next year! Stay tuned!