06/13/2013 2:09PM

Churchill Downs: Hard to look beyond Royal Delta in Fleur de Lis


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Horse races can be complicated affairs, whereby handicappers can envision a number of scenarios unfolding that could lead different outcomes.

But Saturday’s night’s Grade 2, $175,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap on the Stephen Foster undercard isn’t one of those races. Champion mare Royal Delta, winner of the past two Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classics, towers over four rivals, and anything other than a runaway victory is improbable.

Royal Delta is easily the most accomplished mare in the short field, as well as the fastest. She is trained by a Hall of Famer in Bill Mott, who notes she is training well for her first start since a 10th-place finish in the Dubai World Cup. And she is perfectly drawn on the far outside, leaving her well positioned to stay clear of traffic.

Even as the highweight at 125 pounds, spotting the field 10 to 11 pounds apiece under handicap conditions, if Royal Delta runs her race, she wins at 1-5 odds.

Mott said Thursday he attributes Royal Delta’s poor performance in Dubai to a deep track she disliked, and is pleased with how she is coming up to the race.

“She is working for me as well as she ever had,” he said.

She’s also proven over the Churchill Downs strip, having won the Ladies’ Classic when the race was run here in 2011, and last year’s Fleur de Lis, which like this year, came following a trip to Dubai.

Regular rider Mike Smith returns in the irons on Royal Delta, a 5-year-old daughter of Empire Maker owned by Besilu Stables.

Wine Princess seems the most likely candidate to complete the exacta beneath Royal Delta, or register an upset if by some chance Royal Delta returns off her game. Last year’s Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks winner, Wine Princess is Churchill-based and 3 for 3 locally – a record that includes a seven-length score in a third-level allowance April 27.

“She gets a lot out of her training, so we’ve spaced her works out,” said trainer Steve Margolis. “She’s not one you have to put on the fence every six or seven days.”

Leading jockey Shaun Bridgmohan rides.

Completing the five-horse field are Funny Proposition, a second-level allowance winner at Churchill on May 17; Doubledogdare winner Ice Cream Silence, seventh in the Arlington Matron on May 25; and veteran She’s All In, who hasn’t raced since finishing sixth of seven in the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn on April 12.