02/23/2012 1:23PM

Gulfstream: Royal Delta, Awesome Maria add glamour to Sabin

Tom Keyser
Royal Delta, shown galloping on Thursday, will face Grade 1 winner Awesome Maria in Saturday's Grade 3 Sabin.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – In an era when even smaller tracks such as Delta Downs and Charles Town are hosting million dollar races, a $100,000 purse rarely buys more than a field of allowance-type horses no matter the venue. So it’s all the more amazing that for a mere 100 grand Gulfstream Park has managed to attract an Eclipse Award champion, Royal Delta, and a Grade 1 winner riding the crest of a four-race victory streak, Awesome Maria, for Saturday’s Grade 3 Sabin.

The match between two of the leading members of the filly and mare handicap division in the 1 1/16-mile Sabin highlights an outstanding 12-race program that also includes the $250,000 Davona Dale for 3-year-old fillies and the $100,000 The Very One on the turf, featuring the 2012 debut of Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Perfect Shirl.

[MORE: PPs and video previews for the Saturday card at Gulfstream Park]

Trainer Bill Mott has made no secret that he is using the Sabin as a prep for Royal Delta’s major objective this spring, the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 31. Royal Delta cemented the 3-year-old filly championship last season with a dominant performance in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic when she rallied to an easy 2 1/2-length victory over It’s Tricky.

Just days after her Breeders’ Cup victory, Royal Delta was put on the auction block, where she was purchased for $8.5 million by Benjamin Leon’s Besilu Stable. Several weeks later, she was reunited with Mott at Payson Park, where she has worked steadily for her return since early January.

“She’s doing really well,” said Mott. “She’s had a bit of a rest but her recent works have been good. She showed she’s willing to work and has looked good doing it.”

Mott said he toyed with the idea of skipping the Sabin and training Royal Delta right up to the World Cup but that would have meant she would have gone five months without a race.

“The distance is a little short for her and we might be at a bit of a disadvantage, especially at a mile and one-sixteenth over this racetrack because it’s a short run to the wire and I don’t think it plays into our filly’s style,” said Mott. “But it’s the only race available if I want to keep her here and I just want to get her started.”

Jose Lezcano, who has ridden Royal Delta in all but one of her eight career starts, will be aboard her again on Saturday.

Awesome Maria will attempt to defend the Sabin title she won with relative ease here a year ago. That victory began a streak that concluded with her three-length triumph in Belmont’s Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap on June 18. She missed the remainder of the season after sustaining a condylar fracture of the left foreleg during a routine workout at Saratoga the following month.

“She’s doing very well and I’m looking forward to getting her started,” said Todd Pletcher, who trains Awesome Maria for a red-hot E. Paul Robsham Stable. “It’s been a little frustrating because she was ready to run a month ago but we couldn’t get an allowance race to fill. Unfortunately, the way the conditions are written for the Sabin, she’ll have to carry top weight off a layoff against a very tough field, but she likes Gulfstream, is a top class filly at a mile and one sixteenth, and is training as good as ever so I’m optimistic she’ll run very well.”

Royal Delta and Awesome Maria will face just three rivals in the Sabin, the well-traveled Canadian Mistress, lightly raced Ghostly Darkness, and the steadily improving Groupie Doll.

Of that trio, Groupie Doll may have the best chance of springing the upset. The Grade 2-placed Groupie Doll was an impressive allowance winner here earlier this winter and is coming off a game second-place finish behind Boys At Tosconova when taking on males for the first time in her career on Jan. 27.

Canadian Mistress was an easy winner of a high-level option claiming and allowance over a sloppy track here earlier this month but will take on graded stakes company for only the second time in her career.


Sabin S. (G3), Post Time: 3:49 ET Saturday

Purse: $100,000; 1 1/16 miles





ML Odds


Ghostly Darkness

E. Reed

R. Maragh



Royal Delta

W. Mott

J. Lezcano



Awesome Maria

T. Pletcher

J. Velazquez



Groupie Doll

W. Bradley

C. Borel



Canadian Mistress

M. Wolfson

E. Trujillo



Recent Sabin winners

Year Horse Beyer
2011 Awesome Maria 102
2010 Aurora Lights 94
2009 One Caroline 102
2008 Lady Marlboro (dh) 91
  Golden Velvet  
2007 Swap Fliparoo 96
2006 Taittinger Rose 90

Avg. winning Beyer: 98.25