PERSONAL ENSIGN | PURSE: $600,000 | 3-YEAR-OLS AND UP | FILLIES | GRADE 1 | 1 1/8-MILES
Besilu Stables' two-time champion Royal Delta continued on her path toward a third crown with an easy victory in the Personal Ensign Handicap at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 25.
Royal Delta, second in the Personal Ensign last year, had a brief early tussle with On Fire Baby in the first quarter-mile but established command under Mike Smith and coasted the rest of the way to capture the 1 ⅛-mile event in 1:48.34 on a fast track. Royal Delta, urged slightly by Smith in the lane to keep her focused, paid $3.10 to win as the heavy favorite.
Authenticity, third early, picked up the pieces to finish second, just ahead of Centring. On Fire Baby finished fourth, with Open Water fifth and last.
It was the sixth Grade 1 victory for Royal Delta, a 5-year-old mare by Empire Maker out of the A.P. Indy mare Delta Princess. She was bred in Kentucky by Palides Investments.
Royal Delta, trained by Bill Mott and now 12-for-20 in her career, won the grade I Delaware Handicap in her previous start. She raced without the race-day anti-bleeding medication furosemide in the Delaware Handicap and the Personal Ensign.
"When she comes with her 'A' game, that's what you expect," Mott said. "She was just good. She was good last time. Mike [Smith] said she was strong and felt great."
"I just was happy I got away good today, and once we did that and she got into her monstrous stride, horses seem to have to take two to her one," Smith said. "She's a machine. Down the lane, she got to looking around the track a little bit, so I got after her just a little to keep her going.
"She's just so big. You hate for her to gear too much down and someone comes running. It's hard to get going again. Other than that, everything was wonderful."
The Personal Ensign is a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" event for the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Owner Ben Leon told HRTV Royal Delta would point to the Distaff again rather than the Breeders' Cup Classic.
"I don't want to keep her from accomplishing all she can accomplish," Leon said.
Leon and Mott said Royal Delta would race next in the Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park Sept. 28.