DELEWARE HANDICAP | PURSE: $7500,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 1 | 1 1/4 MILES
Racing without Lasix in search of a return to dominant form, Besilu Stable's champion racemare Royal Delta cruised to victory by 10 ¾ lengths in the $750,000 Delaware Handicap July 20 at Delaware Park.
The 5-year-old daughter of Empire Maker was never tested on the front end and had already put seven lengths between herself and four rivals after leading through easy fractions -- a quarter in :24.19, a half in :47.50, and three-quarters in 1:11.43. She drew off well within her own power under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith while turning for home alone through a mile in 1:36.29, and was geared down under the line to distance runner-up She's All In by 10 ¾ lengths.
It was a stakes record-setting margin, surpassing the 1960 victory by Quill who won the Delaware Handicap by nine lengths. The prohibitive 2-5 favorite also equaled the record for smallest win payoff in race history; her $2.80 return was matched by three others -- Susan's Girl (1975), Optimistic Gal (1976) and Fleet Indian (2006).
"That was about as easy at it gets," Smith said."She brought her 'A' game today. She jumped out there, got into stride right away, and made every step a winning one. I just cruised around there with her. Everyone expected it and we did what we were supposed to do, so it is just a sigh of relief. I just wanted to make sure I stayed on and crossed the wire.It all went very well. This race should really step her forward."
Last year, Royal Delta won the Del 'Cap for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott by a hard-fought neck over Tiz Miz Sue. She becomes the sixth two-time winner of the 1 ¼-mile event, which carried grade I status for the first time since 1989.
"She did it the right way and she is an awesome mare when she finds her right stride and gets her rhythm," Mott said. "She really covers a lot of ground. We were not going to take anything away from her if she broke well, and I was hoping she would break well. On paper it looked like she might be the speed in the race and she obviously was."
It was the first U.S. win for two-time Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic victress Royal Delta since her disappointing 10th-place finish in the March 30 Dubai World Cup Presented by Emirates Airlines. After returning from Dubai, she was second by five lengths in the June 15 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs.
"Dubai you have to draw a line through, and the other day she was second, but she did not bring her 'A' race," Mott said. "But she ran great today. She was training great coming into the race. Actually, a little too good, if there is such a thing. She was wanting to work a little fast but doing it the right way."
Royal Delta ran the distance in 2:02.04, returning $2.80, $2.10, and $2.10. She's All In returned $8 and $4.40 while And Why Not paid $4.60 in third. Centring and Summer Applause completed the order of finish. Authenticity scratched to run in -- and win -- the Shuvee Handicap at Saratoga Race Course.
According to Mott, Royal Delta will now target the Aug. 25 Personal Ensign Invitational, an event in which she finished second by half a length last year at Saratoga.
Bred in Kentucky by Palides Investments out of the A.P. Indy mare Delta Princess, Royal Delta improved her record to 11-4-1 from 19 starts with earnings of $4,251,126.