02/17/2013 7:33PM

Gulfstream Park: Royal Delta gets season off to good start with easy win in Sabin

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Tom Keyser
After her six-length win in Sunday's Sabin under Mike Smith, Royal Delta will be pointed to the $10 million Dubai World Cup.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -   Royal Delta put an exclamation point on a memorable weekend for her trainer, Bill Mott, when she cruised to an easy six-length victory over a game but overmatched All for Thee in Sunday’s $100,000 Sabin Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Royal Delta will now head back to Dubai, where she is scheduled to make her next start in the $10 million World Cup on March 30. 

Mott swept all three stakes decided here over the weekend while winning five races overall. On Saturday, the Hall of Fame trainer sent out Starformer to capture the Grade 3 The Very One and Amira’s Prince to victory in the Grade 3 Mac Diarmida.  He also won allowance races with the graded stakes-placed 3-year-old filly Emollient on Saturday and the stakes-bound Cigar Street earlier Sunday.

Making her first start since sewing up a second straight Eclipse Award by successfully defending her title in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic 3 1/2 months earlier, Royal Delta overcame a bit of a slow start when she hopped at the break to contest All for Thee’s pace from the outset in the 1 1/16-mile Sabin. With regular rider Mike Smith sitting chilly throughout, Royal Delta forged clear midway down the backstretch and then gradually increased her advantage without need of urging.

All for Thee could not match strides with the winner after the opening half-mile but continued on willingly once eased off the rail on the second turn to prove second best. She finished 3 1/2 lengths clear of Grade 1 winner Grace Hall, who, like the winner, had not started since the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic.

Royal Delta is owned by Benjamin Leon, who purchased the daughter of Empire Maker for $8.5 million out of the Keeneland November sale just days after she won the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic. She covered the distance over a fast track on Sunday in 1:43.31 and paid $2.80.

“A sigh of relief, I’m glad it’s over,” said Mott.  “I’m happy the way everything went coming in. She came into the race great. She worked well. Obviously we’ve got more to do but it’s a nice way to start. We’ve all seen horses that were 1-9 who didn’t perform that way. It’s good to see her continuing on the same path.” 

Mott said he felt Royal Delta came into her 2013 debut a lot more mature and filled out than she was prior to her second-place finish behind Awesome Maria in the 2012 Sabin.

“I think she was working a little better this year.  I think she was a little bit stronger,” said Mott. “She came out of the Breeders’ Cup and she didn’t have to go through a sale this year. People probably don’t realize how much of a toll going to a sale two days after a race can take because she was very tired after that. She lightened up, she lost some weight from it. Of course she’s more mature now, but she seems like she’s filled out better and I think we’re a little more comfortable now.”

Mott said he will do a little work with Royal Delta at the gate after watching her hop briefly at the start of the Sabin.

“She didn’t break well. She was a little uneasy in the gate. We’ve got a little gate work to do with her,” said Mott. “We haven’t done much with her in the gate since the Breeders’ Cup. We’ll have to do a little more schooling so she’s more settled when we go to Dubai.”    

Mott said Royal Delta is scheduled to ship to Dubai  around March 17 and would likely have one easy work at Meydan prior to the World Cup. Royal Delta finished ninth after encountering some traffic issues in the 2012 World Cup.