10/30/2013 9:43AM

Breeders' Cup: Royal Delta's three-peat bid in Distaff is highlight of Friday card

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Barbara D. Livingston
Royal Delta on Friday will try to become the first horse to win the Breeders' Cup Distaff three times.

ARCADIA, Calif. – When Royal Delta lined up in the starting gate a year ago at Santa Anita against two undefeated champion fillies, Awesome Feather and My Miss Aurelia, it seemed as though the Breeders’ Cup’s championship dirt race for females had reached its zenith.

But, like the boys in Spinal Tap, they raised it one louder this year.

Royal Delta is back to defend her title, and as good as last year’s race was, this year’s might be better. Royal Delta, now 5, heads into the gate Friday for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff seeking to become the first three-time winner of the race, and only the second three-time winner in Breeders’ Cup history.

But for Royal Delta to prevail, she will have to defeat last year’s champion 2-year-old filly, Beholder, and Princess of Sylmar, the Kentucky Oaks winner and the pro-tem leader among 3-year-old fillies. Throw in multiple stakes winners Authenticity and Close Hatches, and this field could be the strongest in the race’s history.

The Distaff is the highlight of Friday’s card, the first of two consecutive days of Breeders’ Cup racing at Santa Anita, which is hosting the event for the seventh time. This Breeders’ Cup, the 30th, encompasses 14 races, with five Friday and nine more, including the $5 million Classic, to follow Saturday.

The Distaff, one of the seven original Breeders’ Cup races in 1984, has returned to its birth name after being saddled with the unfortunate “Ladies’ Classic” name from 2008-2012.

[BREEDERS’ CUP 2013: Fields with DRF odds and comments]

The ramifications of this year’s Distaff cannot be overstated. The Eclipse Award for older female is on the line, with Royal Delta – a two-time champion – the acknowledged leader, but Authenticity is an upset win from potentially wresting it away.

More significantly, though, this race could decide the 3-year-old filly title. Princess of Sylmar is the leader, having won four straight Grade 1 races, including a head-to-head match against Beholder in the Kentucky Oaks. Both subsequently have defeated older horses. But should Beholder win the Distaff, she would have as many Grade 1 wins this year as Princess of Sylmar, but one more would be against older runners, and they would have split their two meetings.

That’s the risk.

“You can’t approach these races with reservations regarding what might happen regarding 3-year-old filly [honors],” said Todd Pletcher, who trains Princess of Sylmar and the 4-year-old Authenticity. “You have to try to take advantage of these opportunities. You can’t assume it’s the same next year.”

The reward, though, could be huge.

If Princess of Sylmar wins, she would be a viable candidate for Horse of the Year if there are upsets in key Breeders’ Cup races Saturday, most notably the Classic, which features the current leader for Horse of the Year honors, Game On Dude.

Royal Delta and Beholder are among the eight horses who won Breeders’ Cup races in 2012 and are back this year. Beholder will attempt to become the first filly to win the Juvenile Fillies and later the Distaff. Beholder is based at Santa Anita, where she has won five times in six starts.

“You couldn’t ask for one to be doing any better,” said Beholder’s trainer, Richard Mandella. “It’s nice to be at home, but it’s always better to have the best horse.”

The Distaff is the 10th race on an 11-race card that begins at 10:40 a.m. Pacific time. The first Breeders’ Cup race is race 6, the Marathon, at 1 3/4 miles on dirt. Post time for the Marathon is 1:45 p.m.

Following the Marathon, in order, are the Juvenile Turf, at one mile on grass, the Dirt Mile for 3-year-olds and up, and the Juvenile Fillies Turf, also at one mile on grass.

The Dirt Mile includes such well-known runners as Alpha and Golden Ticket, who dead-heated for the win in the 2012 Travers Stakes, Santa Anita Derby winner Goldencents, and Haskell winner Verrazano, who will be making the final start of his career.

All five Breeders’ Cup races will be shown live by NBCSN in a four-hour telecast that begins at 1 p.m. Pacific. Post time for the Distaff is 4:35 p.m.

There is a pick six, with a guaranteed pool of $1 million, beginning with race 5, the Twilight Derby at 1 1/8 miles on grass for 3-year-olds. There also is a $1.5 million guaranteed pick four on races 7-10. The Distaff is the final leg of both the pick six and that pick four.

There also is a pick five beginning on the day’s first race and a pick four on races 3-6. There is also a special daily double on the Distaff and the Classic.

Following the Distaff is the $150,000 President of the United Arab Emirates Cup Invitational, a 1 1/16-mile race for Arabians. It was placed at the end of the day to keep it out of the pick six and pick four, though it will be part of a pick 3 that includes the Juvenile Fillies Turf and the Distaff.

Adam Albert More than 1 year ago
Close hatches by atleast 4 lengths!
flash gordon More than 1 year ago
Had princess in kentucky oaks and roll with her ever since.one more time baby.has there been any horse run in penn national run in breeders cup?
Mark More than 1 year ago
Just an angle for you wonderful DRF bloggers. The Beldame where POS defeated RD came back relatively weak on the Ragozins. POS ran 7+ while RD ran 8-. The race actually exposed both of them for this race. Beholder's Zenyatta came back a 6-. As you know the lower the number, the faster, more superior the race. Unless RD returns to old form immediately, Beholder looks the absolute one to beat. Princess of Sylmar has run her fastest number on an off track in a romp. She proved one thing beating Royal Delta it appears. Royal Delta is on a decline? Close Hatches is coming in with back to back 7-'s. She is no slouch by any means, but the Cotillion at Parx was a weak race. As you notice her Beyer dropped but the Ragozin stayed the same. She's up in class for this one and appears out of her league. Reference Kentucky Oaks. My choice......#5 BEHOLDER ExBx 4/5
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Royal Delta in front at the half-pole wins in a gallop. She's the finest Mare we've seen since Ruffian.
Richard Barton More than 1 year ago
Not even close.
Laramie Bowcock More than 1 year ago
...did someone forget that Zenyatta existed?
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
One additional note for those that might think that those winners as noted below were the horses that figured and were also front runners. Majestic City was by far the longest shot at 15-1 in a five horse field. He was thrust out of the gate like a quarter horse from the widest position scrubbing to make the lead and the rail. He held on for the win. This will not be lost on the jockey's or trainers and will make for some interesting runs into the first turn.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Let's put the argument of speed bias to rest. Santa Anita is lighting fast. 5 dirt races Thursday. 3 won by the leader, 1 won by the second position horse, and 1 won by the third position horse. Those that said the track has not been that fast and that it was and will be playing fair just weren't paying attention. It has been lighting quick the past few days. It was always going to be groomed for speed for the Cup just as it always is for a big race.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Excellent observation friend. Watch Beholder dazzle this evening.
Paul Aussenhofer More than 1 year ago
I agree and one additional note, the two races not won by the front runners, the front runners finished 2nd in each race (including one at 10-1). Early position in the race will be vitally important.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Exactly as in exacta, and they staggered home to do it and anyone closing if you can call it that still couldn't get past. Always just shake my head in disbelief when people argue that that track doesn't carry speed or play fast.
jackdsplns More than 1 year ago
If Royal Delta brings her 'A game" she wins.Her tendency to wash out before the race is a concern. It will be really interesting watching the strategy Smith and Stevens take as the race unfolds.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
I would be shocked if anyone other than Royal Delta and PoS are given the Older Female and 3 year old filly Eclipses, respectively. Unless Beholder wins by a pole, PoS will get that divsional Eclipse. And no way should anyone be a threat to Royal Delta for the Older Female Eclipse; Authenticity hasn't even won a grade 1.
Mark More than 1 year ago
RD will stalk . Hope mike doesn't move to early . Ex is 4/2,3
Albert More than 1 year ago
In general I agree with you, but RD will be stalking Beholder, which may finish better than you think.
Mark More than 1 year ago
And CH may finish better that u think .Good luck Albert .
Mark More than 1 year ago
Beholder wins, Delta should be banging heads with POS next. I think Close Hatches might be running backwards in the stretch. #1 or #2 may sneak in for second.
Mark More than 1 year ago
I meant 3rd.
Mark More than 1 year ago
CH second off layoff for bill Mott. Enough said.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Beholder spits it . RD buries her midstregch
Andy Dean More than 1 year ago
I dunno but it seems to me that the pace scenario has the possibility to be pretty hot so I think it sets up perfectly for the Princess. Just watched the running of the Kentucky Oaks and she got hammered pretty hard out of the gate, which I think pissed her off and put her mind on running, and she still came running like an express train. Just wish the Mike was on her. I may play a small tri but don't see much value here. One caveat, if the track carries the speed we have the possibility of a merry go round race with RD & Beholder (or vice versa) running one two with no hope for the off the pace types. Studying the previous races as to how the track plays will be paramount.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If today is any indication, no horse in a dirt race has come from any further than two lengths off the pace, that was through race 6. If you may have noticed, Royal Delta never felt the whip in her last race, Mike just seemed to wrap her up after POS passed her. She is working fast at Santa Anita. If she runs as fast as last years distaff, they just won't be able to keep up with her. She had vety fast fractions.