02/10/2017 9:37AM

Three-time champion Royal Delta dies at 9

Barbara D. Livingston
Royal Delta won 10 graded stakes.

The star-crossed breeding career of three-time Eclipse Award winner Royal Delta came to a tragic end this week, when the mare died due to foaling complications in Ireland. Her Galileo filly survived.

This was the first foal for Royal Delta, 9, who was retired in November 2013. She was exported to Ireland, where she was boarded at Coolmore, which stands the globally prominent sire Galileo. She did not get in foal to that stallion in 2014; the following year, she aborted the foal. She was bred in 2016, resulting in this filly.

Royal Delta, a daughter of Empire Maker, began her career running for the Palides Investments of late owner-breeder Saud bin Khaled – who died in February 2011, several months before Royal Delta burst onto the scene that August with a 5 1/2-length win in the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga. She defeated a field that included Grade 1 winner It’s Tricky, Kentucky Oaks one-two finishers Plum Pretty and St. John's River, and Queen's Plate winner Inglorious.

Royal Delta then finished second to eventual Horse of the Year Havre de Grace in the Grade 1 Beldame Stakes.

With Havre de Grace opting for the Breeders' Cup Classic, Royal Delta coasted by 2 1/2 lengths over It’s Tricky in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, locking up her first divisional Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old female. Just a few days later, she was offered at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale as Palides Investments dispersed and was purchased for a staggering $8.5 million by Benjamin Leon's Besilu Stables.

Royal Delta won four graded stakes in 2012, posting Grade 2 scores in the Fleur de Lis and Delaware handicaps before adding the Beldame. She then repeated in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, defeating fellow champion My Miss Aurelia by 1 1/2 lengths. That effort secured her second Eclipse, this time as outstanding older female.

Leon kept Royal Delta in training for 2013, and she rewarded him with two more Grade 1 victories, by 10 3/4 lengths in the Delaware Handicap and 4 3/4 lengths in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga. Despite finishing fourth behind champions Beholder and Close Hatches in the Ladies’ Classic, she picked up her third career Eclipse.

Royal Delta retired with a record of 22-12-5-1 and earnings of $4,811,126. She won 10 graded stakes and only missed the board four times – two of those coming in the Dubai World Cup.

“I've had many great moments in my life, but they and the pleasure that Royal Delta has brought to me and my family is indescribable,” Leon said in a release. “She offered us the opportunity to enjoy wonderful places, people, and experiences. She was a gift that allowed us many thrilling moments, and we will be forever grateful.”

Out of the Grade 3-winning A.P. Indy mare Delta Princess, Royal Delta was a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Crown Queen. It is the immediate family of Grade/Group 1 winners Biondetti and Indy Five Hundred.