02/15/2013 5:13PM

Gulfstream Park: Royal Delta starts familiar path in Sabin

Barbara D. Livingston
Royal Delta will begin her 2013 season the same way she started her 2012 campaign - in the Sabin at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Two-time Eclipse Award winner Royal Delta will kick off her 2013 season in the same manner she began her championship run in 2012, in the Grade 3 Sabin on Sunday at Gulfstream Park. The presence of the imposing Royal Delta in the $100,000 Sabin limited the field to just five starters, a group that also includes Grade 1 winner Grace Hall.

Royal Delta clinched her second consecutive Eclipse Award by successfully defending her title in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic. Purchased by Besilu Stables just days after winning the 2011 Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs, Royal Delta captured four of her last five starts in 2012, including the Grade 1 Beldame at Belmont by 9 1/2 lengths over It’s Tricky.

Trainer Bill Mott is hopeful Royal Delta will get off to a better start this winter than she did a year ago when she finished a distant second behind Awesome Maria in the 1 1/16-mile Sabin. Mott used the race as a prep for her first major goal of the year, the $10 million Dubai World Cup, in which Royal Delta finished ninth after a bit of an eventful trip.

“Last year she was 3 turning 4 and maybe not filled out as much when she came back in the Sabin as she is now,” said Mott. “She seems to be a little stronger mare and carrying a little more flesh going into the race this year. Right now the plan is to take her back to Dubai so I guess you can call the Sabin a prep. Any time you run for the first time, it could be termed a prep.”

Mott said he felt with a little better racing luck Royal Delta would have finished a lot closer in last year’s World Cup.

“She went into the race well but was a victim of a rough trip over there,” said Mott. “I’m not saying she would have won but she would have had a better finish with better racing luck.”

Mott said he will likely stick to a similar schedule with Royal Delta in 2013 as he used a year ago with a possible tweak or two along the way.

“Last year’s schedule worked out pretty well for us but now that she’s older we might do a few different things,” said Mott. “We did that with Cigar when he got older. We were fairly aggressive and not afraid to get beat. We’ve talked about running  Royal Delta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic this fall but understandably that’s a long way off. Right now we’re just talking.”

Mike Smith, who became Royal Delta’s regular rider after she returned from Dubai last spring, will fly in to handle her again in the Sabin.
Grace Hall has also been idle since Breeders’ Cup Day, when she finished a distant fourth behind Royal Delta in the Ladies’ Classic. The outing was the first against older horses for Grace Hall, who won three Grade 2 races at 3, including the Gulfstream Park Oaks.

“She’s doing very well. We’re very happy with her but it’s pretty obvious this race is just a starting point for her,” said trainer Tony Dutrow. “She likes Gulfstream and I think she’ll run well but she’s not going in 100 percent [fit] and what’s important for us is that this is the starting point for her year and not  who the competition is she’ll be facing.”

Dutrow said he felt Grace Hall ran well in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup and is hopeful he can get her back there again this year.

“I don’t think Santa Anita is her cup of tea. It really doesn’t suit her style and unfortunately the Breeders’ Cup is back there again this season,” said Dutrow. “Right now we have nothing picked out for her beyond the Sabin, although we have talked about several possibilities depending upon how this first race goes.”

One Last Dance, who has failed to hit the board in her last five starts; All for Thee, a high-level optional claiming winner here last month; and My Pal Chrisy, third in the Sunshine Millions Distaff in her 2013 bow, complete the field.