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Sunday, February 17, 2013
Royal Delta takes Sabin


Besilu Stables' Royal Delta was using Saturday's Grade 3, $98,000 Sabin as a prep for the Group 1, $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 30, but how much the Bill Mott trainee actually got out of the race is up for debate. The five-year-old mare drew off in the stretch under her own power and finished 1 1/16 miles over the fast Gulfstream Park dirt in 1:43 1/5 with her ears pricked.

"She's amazing. She's so special," owner Benjamine Leon enthused. "She never seems to stop amusing all of us. She makes things like this look so easy when we all know it's not easy. She looks great and more fit than I've ever known her [to be]."

Royal Delta easily moved up between rivals to run in tandem with All for Thee rounding the first turn, then pulled in front of that one to lead on the backstretch through splits of :47 2/5 and 1:11 2/5. She began separating herself from All for Thee around the second turn and sailed home a five-length winner with jockey Mike Smith sitting chilly in the saddle.

"A sigh of relief. I'm glad it's over," Mott smiled. "I'm happy the way everything went coming in. She came into the race great. She worked well. Obviously, we have more to do, but it's a great way to start. I've seen horses that were 1-9 and didn't perform that way. It's good to see her continue on the same path."

Royal Delta's Sabin triumph capped a big weekend for Mott, who saddled three winners at Gulfstream on Saturday, including Grade 3 The Very One winner Starformer and Grade 2 Mac Diarmida victor Amira's Prince.

"They're all running so well. We won two in New York today. With a seven-horse stable up there, we've won three or four up there the last three days," Mott said. "It's been a great weekend. I've had weekends that have been as good probably, but it doesn't happen that often."

All for Thee was game in defeat, holding 2-1 second choice Grace Hall to third by 3 1/2 lengths, while One Last Dance and My Pal Chrisy completed the order under the wire.

Royal Delta, who paid $2.80, $2.20 and $2.10 as the heavy 2-5 favorite, avenged her eight-length loss when second to Awesome Maria in this race last year. She followed that up in the Dubai World Cup against the boys in which she finished ninth after stumbling at the start and having a rough trip.

"I think she was working a little bit better this year. I think she was a little stronger," Mott said in regards to this year's performance as compared to her 2012 Sabin run. "When she came out of the Breeders' Cup, she didn't have to go through a sale. People probably don't realize how much of a toll going through a sale two days after a race can take. She was tired after that I think. She lightened up and lost some weight from it. She's more mature now and filled out better."

Royal Delta is scheduled to leave for Dubai on March 17.

"I want to get her there and do as well going into the race as she did last year. If she can do that we'll be in OK shape. We're going to run against some of the best horses in the world. This is not going to be an easy task. It's a tough journey and a very tough race," Mott said. "We're going to be racing against horses that have been training there since October, November. Some of those horses are already acclimated. I think with a good trip she can make a good show of it."

Campaigned by breeder Palides Investments NV Inc. for her first eight starts, Royal Delta has now banked $3,763,851 in career earnings to go along with a 16-10-3-1 lifetime mark. She captured the Grade 1 Alabama and Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan while placing in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks and Grade 1 Beldame Invitational, the latter to eventual Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, while running for her breeder as a sophomore.

The daughter of Empire Maker capped off her three-year-old season with a 2 1/2-length victory in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, and was shipped cross-country to bring a sale-topping $8.5 million at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale just a couple days later. Benjamin Leon's Besilu Stables had the winning bid, which was the most ever paid for a horse in training at Keeneland November.

Royal Delta enjoyed some down time over the winter, during which she was honored as the champion three-year-old filly of 2011, before returning in the Sabin 12 months ago. While her performances in that Gulfstream race and Dubai weren't very encouraging, her connections' faith in their star filly was redeemed when Royal Delta romped by eight lengths in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 16.

The Kentucky-bred continued her winning ways with a gutsy neck score in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap, then suffered her only other loss of the year when second by a half-length in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Handicap. She rounded out 2012 with a 9 1/2-length triumph in the Beldame and easy title defense in the Ladies' Classic to become just the second two-time winner of that latter race.

Eclipse Award voters once again honored Royal Delta for her accomplishments, this time naming her the champion older female of 2012. The royally-bred mare is merely continues the tradition of her black-type rich family.

Royal Delta is a daughter of the A.P. Indy mare Delta Princess, who would capture six stakes, including three Grade 3 contests, during her time on track while racking up nearly $750,000 in earnings. Delta Princess is herself out of Group 2 victress Lyphard's Delta, who would go on in the breeding shed to produce Grade/Group 1 winners Biondetti and Indy Five Hundred.

Royal Delta's third dam is Proud Delta, who was honored as champion handicap mare in 1976 and, in addition to Lyphard's Delta, also foaled that one's full brother in Grade 3 hero and sire Proud Debonair.