Updated on 11/04/2011 12:39PM

Breeders' Cup: Three-year-old Eclipse on the line in Ladies' Classic

Barbara D. Livingston

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The license plate on his truck says South Dakota, so it’s obvious trainer Bill Mott, who grew up in tiny Mobridge, S.D., has not forgotten his roots. Though he now trains primarily in New York and Florida, it is Kentucky where Mott first gained fame. He has won more races than any trainer in the history of Churchill Downs.

Mott has returned to the place where his Hall of Fame career first took hold, and he has come loaded. Few trainers at Churchill Downs have as strong a lineup for this year’s Breeders’ Cup as Mott, who may have his best chance Friday in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, in which he sends out Royal Delta.

Mott has won the 1 1/8-mile Ladies’ Classic, formerly known as the Distaff, three times, including last year with Unrivaled Belle, also at Churchill Downs. Mott has won six Breeders’ Cup races, and his horses have earned $10,971,210, fifth behind D. Wayne Lukas, Bobby Frankel, Todd Pletcher, and Bob Baffert.

Royal Delta, 3, is the essence of Mott’s training philosophy. Mott does not ask too much too soon, and so Royal Delta wasn’t even among the candidates for the Kentucky Oaks six months ago. But she has blossomed since then, scoring her biggest win in the Alabama Stakes, and she would stake her claim to her division’s Eclipse Award with a victory in the Ladies’ Classic.

To do so, though, Royal Delta will have to defeat Plum Pretty, the Kentucky Oaks winner, and It’s Tricky, the Coaching Club American Oaks winner, whom Royal Delta has traded decisions with all year. Those 3-year-old fillies will take on seven older fillies and mares in the Ladies’ Classic.

The Ladies’ Classic is the sixth and final Breeders’ Cup race to be run Friday, the first of two days of the 28th Breeders’ Cup, the eighth to be held at Churchill Downs. Nine more Breeders’ Cup races will be run Saturday.

Friday’s card begins at 2 p.m. Eastern time and has four races preceding the first Breeders’ Cup race, the Juvenile Sprint. All six Breeders’ Cup races will be televised live by ESPN2 in a four-hour telecast beginning at 4 p.m. The Ladies’ Classic is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

There is a 50-cent pick five that begins on the first race of the day, a pick four that begins on the third race, a pick six that encompasses the final six races of the day, and a second pick four that covers the final four races, making the Ladies’ Classic the anchor leg for the pick six and the late pick four. There also is a Super Hi 5 wager on the Ladies’ Classic.

So there is a lot riding on the Ladies’ Classic, nothing more, though, than a potential championship among 3-year-old fillies.

In the Alabama, Royal Delta defeated It’s Tricky and Plum Pretty. Earlier in the year, she won the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes before finishing third to It’s Tricky and Plum Pretty in the CCA Oaks. In her last start, Royal Delta was second in the Beldame to Havre de Grace, who will face males Saturday in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“She was basically an inexperienced filly at Oaks time in the spring,” Mott said of Royal Delta. “As time has gone on, she’s gotten better. The Black-Eyed Susan, she was pretty good, and in the Alabama, she rolled by them.”

Like last year, when he won the Ladies’ Classic, Mott has been in good humor all week. Asked the reason for having won this race three times, he joked, “You’ve got to finish second in the Beldame, then right to the Ladies’ Classic. That’s the strategy.”

Unrivaled Belle and Ajina were second in the Beldame prior to their BC wins.

Mott also poked fun at himself. He brought his horses early to Kentucky, as opposed to It’s Tricky and Plum Pretty, who got in this week.

“With all the experience I have winning the Kentucky Derby,” said Mott, who is winless in that race, “I think it’s important to train over this track.”

Plum Pretty did not arrive here until Tuesday, but she is already proven over the track, having captured the Kentucky Oaks in May. She comes off a runaway victory over It’s Tricky in the Cotillion at Parx.

It’s Tricky, who is making her first start at Churchill Downs, is a notoriously flighty filly whose demeanor in front of a large crowd will bear watching; she will also race under the lights for the first time. While her behavior is suspect, her talent is not. She beat Plum Pretty and Royal Delta in the CCA Oaks, then was second in the Alabama and Cotillion.

“She wins Friday, and she’ll earn an Eclipse Award,” said her trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin. “There’s a lot on the line.”

Of the older runners, Ultra Blend brings the most consistent record into the race, having finished first or second in her last six starts, including a victory in the Clement Hirsch at Del Mar. She nicked the back of her right front hoof earlier in the week, taking out a dime-sized hunk of flesh.

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“She should have a decent scab there by Friday,” said Alan Sherman, the assistant to his father, trainer Art Sherman. “We just have to keep it dry, keep the moisture out.”

Ask the Moon should be prominent on the front end. She won a pair of Grade 1 stakes at Saratoga this summer. The late-running Miss Match will be hoping for a rapid early pace, like the kind that helped her win the Santa Margarita in March at Santa Anita. Pachattack was second in her only dirt start, to Ask the Moon in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga.

Super Espresso was second to Ask the Moon in the Ruffian at Saratoga but has run two poor races since. Satan’s Quick Chick was a distant third to Havre de Grace and Royal Delta in the Beldame. Medaglia d’Amour, who would have been making her first start on dirt, was scratched Thursday with a fever.

Conditions are forecast to be clear and cold Friday, with a high temperature of 60 degrees and a low of 40 for a card that will end after sundown, according to The Weather Channel. There is a 70 percent chance of rain Thursday, but the main track at Churchill has a history of drying out quickly, so if the forecast is correct, the track should be fast Friday.

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Plum Pretty
B. Baffert
R. Bejarano 108, 83, 96 Kentucky Oaks winner in spring, 108 Beyer in fall, holds pace advantage 8-5
Royal Delta
W. Mott
J. Lezcano 91, 97, 85 Nine furlongs at CD ideal for improving daughter of Empire Maker 5-2
It's Tricky
K. McLaughlin
R. Dominguez 95, 89, 97 Among trio of 3yos expected to dominate, already owns pair of G1's 4-1
G. Butler
R. Maragh 94, 95, 87 Hardly impossible, she runs on all surfaces and enters in top form 6-1
Miss Match
N. Drysdale
G. Gomez 93, 93, 95 Deep-closing bomber scored G1 upset in March for same connections 12-1
Ultra Blend
A. Sherman
D. Flores 94, 94, 95 Consistent and game Calbred always tries hard, might prefer shorter 12-1
Ask the Moon
M. Wolfson
J. Castellano 80, 99, 98 Her shining moments were summer at SAR, average elsewhere 20-1
Super Espresso
T. Pletcher
J. Velazquez 84, 87, 89 Not quite this caliber, taking a shot to pick up a piece 20-1
Satans Quick Chick
E. Reed
E. Prado 82, 86, 78 Would be an unpredictable shocker by deep-closing mare 30-1
Medaglia d'Amour
B. Cecil
P. Valenzuela 83, 88, 85 Scratched -