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Churchill Downs: To Mott's relief, Royal Delta cruises to easy Fleur de Lis victory
By Byron King
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Suffice to say Royal Delta’s unsuccessful trip overseas when ninth in the Dubai World Cup took little out of her.
Showing the same brilliance she exhibited in winning the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic last fall at Churchill Downs, Royal Delta overwhelmed five rivals Saturday’s Grade 2, $161,700 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill in the race before the Stephen Foster Handicap. Taking command on the turn with long, powerful strides, she won geared down, coasting to an eight-length victory.
Third for much of the race, as Sterling Madame set a half-mile in 47.70 seconds while being chased by Afleeting Lady, Royal Delta launched her move on the second turn, six furlongs into the race.
Blowing past rivals under just minimal urging from Mike Smith, she took command leaving the turn, and after opening up in early stretch, was taken a hold of late and cruised across the finish with her ears pricked.
The winner, a 4-year-old daughter of Empire Maker, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.49, a time that undoubtedly could have been faster had she been asked for her best in the stretch. She paid $3.20.
“Heading for home she was just in a gallop,” said winning rider Mike Smith. “I looked over at the big teletron and she was about seven or eight in front, and there was no use getting after her after that.”
Afleeting Lady, second virtually throughout in the Fleur de Lis, held the runner-up spot, 4 3/4 lengths ahead of third-place St. John’s River, who never challenged in a dull performance.
Trainer Bill Mott was all smiles after the race, feeling the relief of seeing Royal Delta return to peak form. In addition to her loss in Dubai in March, she had been second in the Grade 3 Sabin behind Awesome Maria in her only other start Feb. 25.
“It’s amazing that you feel as much pressure with the race like this,” he said. “Obviously she was defeated in Dubai and we wanted to see her get back on the right track. We want to find out if we have the real horse we thought we had. And she showed up today.”
Mott mentioned the $750,000 Delaware Handicap July 21 as an option for Royal Delta, among other races.
Smith is sure to follow. “I keep getting blessed with these big, beautiful fillies that can really run,” he said.
The Fleur de Lis marked Royal Delta’s first win for Ben Leon’s Besilu Stables after she was purchased for $8.5 million at Keeneland last fall.
Oh please Mr. Mott, send this special "Gem" to DP July 21, would love to see her again
Why was Lezcano taken off?
Lovely, lovely win by Royal Delta in the Fleur de Lis at Hollywood Park today. There was no heading her off when she put her regal head out in front coming around the turn. She was very impressive this afternoon. Afleeting Lady ran a very nice race of her own, and was the only competition on the track today to Royal Delta. Afleeting Lady put up a fight most of the way around the track, and was totally engaged throughout the entire race. St. John's River was not a factor at all today, and ran a very distant third. Congratulations to Royal Delta, and it's good to see her back in top form again.
No question who the best horse was in not just the Fleur de Lis, but at Churchill the entire night. Royal Delta not only won easily, but her final time was quite good, and at least 4 lengths fastter than the Foster. And she most certainly could have run faster. Royal Delta is going to be nearly impossibe to beat if she goes in the Del Cap at 10 furlongs. There's not many fillies and mares that want 10 furlongs. The Vanity winner, Love the Way You Are, is one that does, but she doesn't have the tactical speed, brilliance, or class of Royal Delta. The one question for Royal Delta as it concerns the Breeder's Cup is how she will like Santa Anita, and how she might fare on a track that could be heavily favoring speed. But what was great about Royal Delta's performance tonight is the speed she showed to stalk early, and then open up on the turn. However, it's very possible we see Royal Delta in the Classic instead of the Distaff(Ladies Classic), and I tend to believe that any speed bias would have more impact at 9 furlongs than 10. At 10 furlongs it's about who can get the distance, a distance long enough to allow the best horse the space needed to assert itself. As a fan in California, I can't wait to see this champion in person. And Bill Mott continues to be great. What a class trainer. He just does everything the right way, and is probably still the best at getting a horse to peak for the biggest races.
Wow! $8.5 mil. She better be good. Nod to Empire Maker for making her.
Mott was very confident. When the soft spoken Mott said she was cranked up for this one on HRTV I was licking my chops. Then she dropped to six to five. Anyway Mott was right on
This is one of the most impressive races I have seen recently. Watch out boys, Mike Smith just got some more filly power!
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