06/05/2012 2:06PM

Churchill Downs: Royal Delta will return in Fleur de Lis

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Barbara D. Livingston
Last year's champion 3-year-old filly Royal Delta will ship from New York for the June 16 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Royal Delta, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2011, will try to get back to form when she returns to action June 16 in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs in her first start since a disappointing effort in the March 31 Dubai World Cup.

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott confirmed Tuesday morning from Saratoga that he intends to send Royal Delta to Churchill from New York on the charter flight that will return horses here following the Belmont Stakes.

Royal Delta has raced twice since sewing up her Eclipse Award by winning the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic here last fall. She was a distant second to Awesome Maria in the Grade 3 Sabin at Gulfstream Park in late February before finishing ninth when facing males in the World Cup at Meydan. She is expected to be part of a short field for the 1 1/8-mile Fleur de Lis, with her top challengers being Absinthe Minded, St. John’s River, and possibly Afleeting Lady, Pachattack, and/or Tiz Miz Sue.

The $150,000 Fleur de Lis is one of four stakes set for the night program of June 16, with the Grade 1, $400,000 Stephen Foster serving as the main event. Mott confirmed Ron the Greek, winner of the Santa Anita Handicap in March, as definite for the 1 1/8-mile Foster while saying To Honor and Serve is possible for the race.

Weight assignments for the Fleur de Lis and Foster are to be announced Saturday.

The Foster is shaping up as a terrific race, with Ron the Greek facing Wise Dan, Rogue Romance, Astrology, Nehro, Fort Larned, and probably several more, with Alternation, Nates Mineshaft, and Mission Impazible regarded as possible. Entries will be drawn next Wednesday.

The Foster program will be the second of three Saturday night programs this month at Churchill. Ontrack attendance for “Downs After Dark” last Saturday was just short of 22,000. The final night card is set for June 30.

Two horsemen injured on golf course

Trainer Lon Wiggins and Mott’s local assistant, Kenny McCarthy, escaped serious injury Monday in a golf-cart accident at Glenmary Country Club at the horsemen’s annual scramble. Wiggins was driving when he lost control on a steep rain-slicked hill, and the cart crashed into an embankment, with the cart turning over on Wiggins.

Robin Wiggins, the trainer’s wife, said Tuesday that both men “are going to be okay,” although Wiggins was “banged up pretty good” and went to see a doctor after work Tuesday morning and McCarthy sustained a lacerated hand.

Lon Wiggins is the son of Hal Wiggins, who trained Rachel Alexandra to win the 2009 Kentucky Oaks before she was bought privately by Jess Jackson.

Cruz returns to Calder

Jockey Manny Cruz has left the Kentucky circuit after a little more than a year to return to his former longtime home track of Calder, effective this week. Cruz departed on a winning note by capturing the Mint Julep Handicap on Saturday night with a terrific ride aboard Bizzy Caroline for trainer Ken McPeek. It was the second straight year Cruz and McPeek combined to take the Mint Julep after winning in 2011 with My Baby Baby.

Cruz, a 42-year-old native of Brazil, had ridden primarily for McPeek but was getting limited opportunities with other stables. He left the 2011 Gulfstream Park meet to begin riding at Churchill and began a circuit that consisted of the two major Kentucky tracks, Saratoga, and Gulfstream. At Churchill and Keeneland, he was a combined 54 for 423.

Cruz has two sons, ages 10 and 8, living in south Florida and told agent Doc Danner he wanted to spend more time with them.

Borel's painful injury merely a banged shin

Calvin Borel gave his many fans a big scare Saturday night when writhing in pain and being loaded into the track ambulance when being thrown in the post parade by his scheduled mount, Splash Landing, before the fifth race.

But Borel was soon pronounced okay and was back riding in the sixth race.

“His iron happened to hit him right on the shinbone, and that stings really bad,” said his agent, Jerry Hissam. “He was in some serious pain but thankfully it was short-lived.”

◗ Keeneland is hosting several special events Saturday in recognition of the Belmont Stakes simulcast, including drawings for a 42-inch television and souvenir Belmont programs and mutuel tickets.

 

Gary Smith More than 1 year ago
IT,ll take a lot more than that to keep a good Irishman down!