08/23/2013 2:39PM

Saratoga: Royal Delta faces pair of speedy challengers in Personal Ensign


This content is part of a free preview of DRF Plus. Click to learn more.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Royal Delta regained her spot on the throne of the older filly and mare division with a dominant victory in last month’s Grade 1 Delaware Handicap.

Sunday, she will try to keep her position against two would-be queens – Authenticity and On Fire Baby – in the Grade 1, $600,000 Personal Ensign Handicap at Saratoga.

Royal Delta, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2011 and the champion older female of 2012, will try to make amends for her half-length loss at 3-5 in this race last year to Love and Pride, to whom she was conceding 10 pounds.

Royal Delta completed her 4-year-old season with wins in the Beldame and Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, races that she again figures to target this year. Trainer Bill Mott said owner Benjamin Leon is even talking about bringing Royal Delta back to race at 6.

DRF Plus Preview

Royal Delta enters the Personal Ensign off what looked to be a relatively easy score in the Delaware Handicap.

“I don’t think those races are ever as easy as they look,” Mott said. “She won by a big margin. It appeared to be easy, but a race is a race and we’ve seen that before where horses seemed to run easily but it was still a big effort on her part.”

Royal Delta, who breaks from post 2 under Mike Smith and 124 pounds, seems to enjoy racing on the lead, but may not have an easy time getting there early with the speedy On Fire Baby to her inside and the speedy Authenticity in post 5.

“I think she’s better if you’re able to let her find her rhythm and get into her stride wherever she’s at,” Mott said. “The filly doesn’t need to be in front.”

For the second straight race, Royal Delta will race without the anti-bleeding medication Lasix.

“Experts claim it can cause an electrolyte imbalance. We seem to feel we saw an indication of that in the Kentucky race, so we made the decision to take her off,” Mott said. “We ran her before in Dubai without Lasix and though the outcome wasn’t good over there, I don’t think it was as a result that she didn’t have Lasix.”

On Fire Baby was planning to take on Royal Delta in the Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs, but was forced to miss that race due to a virus that kept her in a clinic for about a week. Trainer Gary Hartlage said he believes his filly is doing fine physically and he’s eager to see where On Fire Baby stacks up against Royal Delta as he considers a start in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff – formerly the Ladies’ Classic – in November. As part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series, the Personal Ensign winner will receive a fees-paid berth in the Distaff.

“This one here will tell us if we can go to the Breeders’ Cup or if we can’t,” said Hartlage, who will be starting his first horse at Saratoga. “Ain’t no use beating our head up against the wall. . . . We’ll know where we stand after this one.”

On Fire Baby beat Tiz Miz Sue in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom before getting beat a head by Authenticity in the Grade 2 La Troienne. In both races, she was on the lead. She has won from off the pace before in the Pocahontas at 2 and Honeybee at 3. Joe Johnson rides.

“It all depends on who guns to the first turn,” Hartlage said. “Joe can look over, and if he wants to go, he can go. If he doesn’t want to go, he can sit there and lay second or third.”

Authenticity, a 6-year-old daughter of Quiet American, is in search of her first Grade 1 victory for Padua Stables and trainer Todd Pletcher. Authenticity comes off a one-length victory in the Grade 3 Shuvee here July 20.

“A race over the track is to her benefit, and she’s trained even better since then,” Pletcher said. “We’re very happy with her, but when Royal Delta shows up and runs her ‘A’ race she’s very tough to beat.”

Centring was third in the Ogden Phipps behind Tiz Miz Sue and Authenticity and was fourth in the Delaware Handicap. Open Water won the Grade 3 Marjorie Everett Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park in May.