03/27/2012 12:06PM

Dubai: Mott's World Cup plan for Royal Delta long time in making

Andrew Watkins
Royal Delta, second in the Sabin last out, has a history of following a loss with a big success in her next start.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Bill Mott arrived in Dubai on Tuesday morning, reuniting with the filly, Royal Delta, he had shipped here from Florida a week ago. It was a trip he had first thought about taking four months ago. It was a trip he wondered for some time if he would be permitted to make.

In the four days between the time Royal Delta won the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4 and went through the auction ring at Keeneland Nov. 8, Mott said he thought about the prospects of running Royal Delta, the 2011 3-year-old filly champion, in the $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan, which will be run Saturday night.

“Just because you think, what do you do with one like this?” said Mott, who won the inaugural running of the World Cup in 1996 with Cigar, the 1995 Horse of the Year. “What’s the next challenge? If she’s that good you got to think about the big races.”

Before Mott could truly think about the World Cup, he had to wonder if he would be the one training the filly.

Royal Delta’s owner, Prince Saud bin Khaled, died Feb. 1, 2011, and his racing prospects were going to be dispersed later in the year. Mott had several owners who wanted to buy Royal Delta before she ever saw the auction ring. But to maintain the credibility of the dispersal, Royal Delta had to be included.

Benjamin Leon, who races under the name Besilu Stables, outbid all comers, taking Royal Delta for $8.5 million. Leon’s primary trainer was Todd Pletcher. Mott, remembers Leon asking him to call him, but Mott was resigned to the fact the horse would end up with Pletcher.

Following the sale, Royal Delta went to Leon’s farm in Ocala, Fla. for a vacation. One late November day, Mott went to visit Leon at his farm and told him his idea about running in the World Cup.

“At that point I met with him I told him what I’d like to do with her if he was going to give her to me,” Mott said. “I still hadn’t had her in the barn. I said, ‘If we’re going to do it we got to get her started.’ ”

Shortly thereafter, Mott got the horse back at Payson Park in early December. The plan was a go.

Though the World Cup was the target, Mott needed a prep race for Royal Delta. He thought the Sabin, a two-turn, 1 1/16-mile race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 25, would be ideal. Mott wasn’t expecting Royal Delta to win, so when she finished second, eight lengths behind Awesome Maria, he was not surprised.

“I nearly could have predicted the outcome before the entries even came out,” Mott said. “I knew who was running.”

Royal Delta, a daughter of Empire Maker, has a history of running an explosive race following a mediocre one. She won the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga after finishing third in the Coaching Club American Oaks earlier in the meet. She won the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic following an 8 1/4-length loss to Havre de Grace in the Beldame at Belmont.

The reasons Mott thought the World Cup was a logical goal for Royal Delta was because she had won the Alabama at 1 1/4 miles and had won a first-level allowance over a synthetic surface at Keeneland.

“I felt like she fit the conditions so well, and I really believe she’s a really top filly,” Mott said.

Mott won the inaugural World Cup with Cigar. Coming off an undefeated (10-for-10) campaign that earned him Horse of the Year, Cigar entered 1996 on a 12-race winning streak.

Sheikh Mohammed felt Cigar’s presence in the inaugural World Cup would lend the event credibility. It was not an easy chore getting him to the race.

Cigar came out of the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Classic with a quarter crack. It abscessed again following his victory in the Donn, forcing Mott to scratch plans to run in the Santa Anita Handicap. Cigar missed 13 days of training.

Shipping to Dubai was a big unknown. For Cigar, so was a challenge, one he got from Soul of the Matter in the stretch. With a persevering Jerry Bailey aboard and a determination befitting a champion, Cigar prevailed.

“I really didn’t know how he’d handle a challenge if somebody looked him in the eye and ran with him for a ways,” Mott recalled. “I didn’t know how he’d react. He couldn’t have reacted any more gallant than what he did.”

Now, Mott goes from gallant to elegant. Royal Delta will try to become the first female to win the World Cup in this, its 17th running. Of the six females to have run in the World Cup, the best finish was a runner-up finish by To the Victory in 2001.

“It’s a great challenge to try to be the first filly to win it,” Mott said. “We had the first colt to win it, now we need the first filly to win it.”