DELAWARE HANDICAP | PURSE: $750,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | FILLIES & MARES | GRADE 2 | 1 1/4 MILES
Besilu Stables' Royal Delta held off a late challenger to win the $750,000 Delaware Handicap by a neck at Delaware Park July 21, but it wasn't the nemesis everyone thought she'd face near the wire.
Awesome Maria, who beat the champion 3-year-old filly of 2011 in the Sabin Stakes earlier this year, gave way in the drive after Royal Delta cruised to the lead as expected coming off the turn in the 1 1/4-mile test. But there was 28-1 shot Tiz Miz Sue closing from fifth to reach the hip of the 1-2 favorite, then looming at her girth on the outside, looking like she might even head Royal Delta as they hurtled on down to the line.
It took some stiff left-handed urging from Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, but Royal Delta fought tough like a champion should, and hung on fully extended to get the victory. Highweight in the field under 124 pounds, she was carrying 10 more than the second-place finisher.
The early going of the Del 'Cap was led by Love and Pride, who set a fast early pace of :22.87 and :45.70. The 29-1 shot opened a four-length lead while chased by Cash for Clunkers and Awesome Maria, who was sent up the inside after breaking awkwardly. Royal Delta was well-placed in fourth from the one hole and moved to second by the half, then was sent after the leader in tandem with Awesome Maria through three-quarters in 1:09.80.
The 4-year-old daughter of Empire Maker powered three-wide off the turn and took command by a half-length for a mile in 1:36.02 while commencing her long drive for home, then held off Tiz Miz Sue in a final time of 2:03.51.
Royal Delta returned $3.00, $2.40, and $2.10 while Tiz Miz Sue paid $9.80 and $3.60 and Awesome Maria brought $2.10. Love and Pride, Daring Reality, Pachattack, and Cash for Clunkers completed the order of finish.
Royal Delta automatically qualified for the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park with her score in the Delaware Handicap, a "Win and You're In" Breeders' Cup Challenge event. Bred in Kentucky by Palides Investments out of the A.P. Indy mare Delta Princess, she improved her record to 7-2-1 from 12 starts for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, with earnings of $2,263,851.