06/16/2012 8:54PM

Churchill Downs: To Mott's relief, Royal Delta cruises to easy Fleur de Lis victory

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Reed Palmer Photography, Churchill Downs
Royal Delta coasts to the finish of the Fleur de Lis under jockey Mike Smith.

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.