By Julian Muscat
Not so much a shrinking violet as a restless princess in waiting. That's Besilu Stable’s Royal Delta, whose demeanor is enchanting the galleries at morning exercise here in Dubai.
With trainer Bill Mott having arrived March 26, Royal Delta was allowed a little of the rein she has been eagerly requesting as she flowed down the home stretch March 27 like molten lava. Her clocking of :35.64 over three furlongs confirmed what several admiring eyes have known all week: the 5-year-old is in on top of her game ahead of the $10 million Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates (UAE-I) March 30.
“It looked to me like she was moving really easily,” ventured Mott, who won the inaugural running of the world's richest race with mighty Cigar back in 1996. She certainly was, just as she has been doing since she cleared quarantine and took to the synthetic Tapeta surface at Meydan.
At times the dual Eclipse Award winner has displayed a desire to be unleashed. She even reared up March 26 in anticipation of morning exercise and has occasionally stamped her feet.
If there can be such a thing as an $8.5 million bargain, the price at which Royal Delta changed hands in November 2011 after her first of two wins in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (gr. I), then she is it. She would turn the most obdurate of heads.
Jim Cornes, the international stable supervisor at Meydan, said of Royal Delta: "I watched her get off the plane and as soon as she stood on the tarmac she looked around with her ears pricked as if to say: 'OK, who's in charge here? Gather my things; let's move.'"
While Mott smiles at the compliments, he is here on business of the unfinished variety. Royal Delta encountered gridlock every bit as dense as traffic in downtown Dubai when she contested the World Cup 12 months ago.
“Straight after that race we decided that if she could earn her way in, we'd come back again,” Mott reflected of the mare’s ninth-place behind Monterosso. It was the first time Royal Delta failed to hit the board since her racetrack debut in March 2011.
As healthy as she looked back then, Mott believes the daughter of Empire Maker—Delta Princess, by A.P. Indy, comes into the race with greater sheen this time.
“She did a little better over the winter I'd say. She's a year older, a little more mature and developed," Mott said. "You're not going to have an easy time of it in a race like this but we feel she deserves the chance to take on the best.”
It's an eye-popping fact that victory would more than double Royal Delta's career earnings of $3,763,851 to date. However, any prize-money harvest will be hard earned.
“Some of the American horses set a really high standard,” Mott said. “Dullahan was very good on synthetic tracks last year, and of course, Animal Kingdom won the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and is proven on synthetics. You also have to respect last year's winner (Monterosso), who turned up on the day and got the job done.”
Mott did just that with Cigar 15 years ago and the memories linger.
“You never forget that,” he said. “It was quite an experience in the first year they had the World Cup. At that point we didn't know where we were going and what we were going to do when we got there, and actually, they put on a pretty good show which turned out very well for us.
“Running in the best races with the best horses is really what we work for. I have enjoyed every visit (to Dubai) but now it's down to the horse. Let's hope she can express herself this time.”
If her self-expression mirrors the combination of grace and power she displays in the mornings, Royal Delta is sure to figure.
By Julian Muscat