07/18/2013 12:49PM

Delaware Handicap: Royal Delta rarely fails twice in a row


Royal Delta is a multiple champion, but she is not perfect.

Several times in her career, Royal Delta was beaten in a spot she was expected to win, only to come back the next time with an authoritative victory.

At 3, Royal Delta was beaten in the Coaching Club American Oaks and came back to win the Grade 1 Alabama. That fall, she was beaten in the Beldame and came back to win the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic. At 4, Royal Delta was beaten in the Personal Ensign and came back to win the Beldame and Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic.

“She’s been beaten before,” trainer Bill Mott said Thursday morning. “She’s always redeemed herself in the past and at the right time.”

Coming off a five-length loss as the 1-5 favorite in last month’s Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs, Royal Delta will be looking for redemption in Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Delaware Handicap, a race she won last year when it was a Grade 2. A victory in the Del Cap would push Royal Delta’s career earnings past the $4.2 million mark.

Five were entered against Royal Delta, but Authenticity, the 3-1 second-choice on the morning line, is expected to scratch and run in the Grade 3, $200,000 Shuvee Handicap at Saratoga, according to her trainer, Todd Pletcher. Summer Applause, who also was cross-entered in the Shuvee, will run in Delaware, trainer Chad Brown said Thursday.

Other than noting that Royal Delta was a bit anxious pre-race, Mott didn’t offer any significant excuses for Royal Delta’s second-place finish to the front-running Funny Proposition in the Fleur de Lis.

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“It wasn’t like the race was so bad she got beat 30 lengths,” Mott said.

Moreover, Mott has been extremely pleased with how Royal Delta has trained since the race, firing three bullet works at Belmont Park, including a five-furlong move in 58.90 seconds July 7.

“She’s been strong and training well. She seemed to be doing well going into the other race, too,” Mott said.

The expected scratch of Authenticity not only takes a major rival out of the Delaware Handicap, but it also removes one of the primary speed horses from the field. Should Royal Delta break well, Mike Smith will likely put her on or near the lead.

Royal Delta, the 123-pound highweight, is the only member of the field to have won at 1 1/4 miles, the distance of the Delaware Handicap.

Summer Applause, a daughter of Harlan’s Holiday, will attempt 1 1/4 miles for the first time. She has not yet won beyond 1 1/16 miles and hasn’t run since taking the Grade 3 Allaire duPont Distaff at Pimlico on May 18.

“The mile and a quarter is a little bit of a question mark; wouldn’t be surprised if she could handle it,” said Brown, who trains Summer Applause for Gillian Campbell and Greenwood Lodge Farm. “Going against Royal Delta is a tall task.”

Since coming to Brown’s barn, Summer Applause has won 2 of 3 starts, winning the Grade 2 Top Flight at Aqueduct in addition to the duPont. In between, she finished fourth in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom.

“She’s very workmanlike in her races, a bit of a grinder,” Brown said. “You can put her wherever you want, lay close or come from behind. She doesn’t have a real big explosive move. Once she starts moving forward, she’ll wear opponents down. It’s a matter of a class. Is she a Grade 1-caliber horse?”

Alex Cintron has been named to ride Summer Applause from post 2.

She’s All In is a 14-time winner, her most impressive performance coming in the Sixty Sails Handicap at Hawthorne in April 2012. She finished three-quarters of a length behind Royal Delta in the Fleur de Lis. She gets in with 112 pounds, the same 11-pound spread that existed between her and Royal Delta in the Fleur de Lis.

Centring, a daughter of A.P. Indy trained by Tom Albertrani, is coming off a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont on May 27. Irad Ortiz Jr. is named to ride.

And Why Not, trained by Michael Matz is only 1 for 13 in her career, but is coming off a solid second-place finish in the Grade 3 Obeah, the local prep for the Delaware Handicap.

The Delaware Handicap goes as race 9 (5:20 p.m.) on an 11-race program that begins at 1:20 p.m. Eastern.

◗ In race 7, Winning Image looks like the horse to catch and beat in the $100,000 Sweet and Sassy Stakes for female sprinters at six furlongs.

Winning Image has won three straight, including the Dashing Beauty Stakes, in which she beat Vicarious Won by a neck. Vicarious Won and Evening Snow, a Pennsylvania-bred filly who has won three consecutive races, loom the major threats.