Champion Royal Delta looks to defend her status as the racing world's star female against the brilliant 3-year-old Princess of Sylmar Sept. 28 in the $400,000 Beldame Invitational at Belmont Park.
The most enticing matchup of the Distaff division so far this year has 5-year-old Royal Delta looking to win the Beldame in consecutive seasons after taking the Delaware Handicap in July and the Aug. 25 Personal Ensign last time out. Kentucky Oaks victress Princess of Sylmar faces her elders for the first time off a powerful trio of wins including the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks and the Aug. 17 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
Run at 1 ⅛ miles, the Beldame is a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" event for the Breeders' Cup Distaff, which Royal Delta has won the past two years. The Empire Maker runner has already qualified twice for the Distaff this year with her Del 'Cap and Personal Ensign wins for Besilu Stables and Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. She is to be cross-entered in both the Distaff and Breeders' Cup Classic, as she was last year.
Princess of Sylmar, who races for Ed Stanco's King of Prussia Stable and trainer Todd Pletcher, has emerged as the clear-cut leader of the sophomore filly division with her string of Grade 1 victories begun with a 38-1 upset in the Kentucky Oaks. The homebred Majestic Warrior filly has seven wins and a second from nine starts, her lone defeat since breaking her maiden coming in the April 6 Gazelle Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack to Close Hatches.
Royal Delta will leave post 4 in the Beldame under 123 pounds and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, while Princess of Sylmar will be piloted from the 2 hole by Javier Castellano carrying 120 pounds. The two-time champion racemare has been pegged at 3-5 favoritism on the morning line, while her younger rival is the 2-1 second choice.
Royal Delta has been winning her recent races in flawless frontrunning style, taking the 1 ¼-mile Delaware Handicap -- in which she was already six lengths ahead after a mile -- by 10 ¾ lengths and the 1 ⅛-mile Personal Ensign by 4 ½ under wraps. Princess of Sylmar should be gunning for her at the end, having earned her past three victories with a powerful closing bid.
The Beldame is one of five Grade 1 races at Belmont Park on a "Super Saturday" card anchored by the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup. It has been scheduled as race 5 of 11 with an approximate local post of 3:00 p.m. EDT.
Four others have entered in hopes of springing the upset. Darley Stable's homebred Centring, a 5-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy, was third in the Personal Ensign last time out for trainer Tom Albertrani and fourth in the Delaware Handicap before that. She is joined by Hellen Groves' Del 'Cap third-place finisher And Why Not to take another swing at Royal Delta. The latter, a 4-year-old Street Cry filly, was fifth in the Aug. 9 Alada Stakes at Saratoga for Michael Matz in her most recent start.
Completing the field are Sept. 2 Glens Falls Stakes winner Lady Cohiba, a 4-year-old Broken Vow filly trained by Christophe Clement for Live Oak Plantation, and Sept. 19 Parlo Stakes winner Roman Invader, a 6-year-old daughter of Roman Ruler who is trained by David Jacobson and owned in partnership by the trainer with Christopher Dunn.