Jockey Mike Smith perched quiet in the irons as the champion filly ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.80, dominating four other runners with an impressive display of talent while geared down the final sixteenth of a mile. The 4-5 favorite recovered from a runner-up finish in the Aug. 26 Personal Ensign (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course to register her third victory from six starts in 2012 for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and owner Benjamin Leon Jr.'s Besilu Stable.
"It's nice to win the race and turn it around a little bit," said Mott, who previously ran second in three editions of the Beldame with three Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I) winners, including Royal Delta in 2011. "I'm glad for Royal Delta; she got beat last time, came back, and avenged that loss today. She ran a super race—broke well, took it to the horse on the lead and she was much the best today. Just a very impressive performance."
The filly's connections credited an adjustment in warm-up routine for Royal Delta with the improvement over her Saratoga loss to 10-1 shot Love and Pride. In her start at the upstate oval she was washed out and fractious in the post parade; this time, she warmed up like the ultimate pro.
"She was much calmer today in the post parade," Smith remarked. "The other day I kept trying to keep her quiet and keep her still and I think it just agitated her more and she got hot and got hot. So, today when she wanted to kick on, I just let her open up and gallop, let her open up coming back. She was much better. I learned a little something; I was glad Bill brought it to my attention. If that was the difference, I'm not sure, but she was really leading up to this race for this kind of a performance... she's coming around at the right time."
Smith kept Royal Delta affixed to the hip of It's Tricky, who found herself on the lead when the speedy Cash for Clunkers hit the left side of the gate and got off to a slow start. It's Tricky ticked off early fractions of :24.09 and :46.70, but was easily overpowered as Royal Delta commenced her move through three-quarters in 1:10.19. The winner hit the top of the lane under her own power, while jockey Eddie Castro was already hard at work on It's Tricky in an effort to match strides.
"We were second best," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said of It's Tricky, the multiple grade I winner who held for second by 1 1/4 lengths. "It was a match race all the way and we finished second best today. We'll talk with (Godolphin racing manager) Simon Crisford whether to go seven (furlongs) or longer or not go at all to the Breeders' Cup."
Under equal weights of 123 pounds, Royal Delta returned $3.70, $2.20, and $2.10 while It's Tricky brought $2.30 and $2.10. Go Unbridled completed the trifecta and paid $2.90, while Maristar and Cash for Clunkers completed the order of finish. Disposablepleasure and Acting Happy scratched.
"Halfway down the backside, my mare really gathered herself," Smith remarked. "She was moving, at that point, so much better than It's Tricky, (Castro) was having to push her along to keep pace with me. I thought 'Wow, I hope I'm not going too, too fast and set it up for someone behind me,' but she was well within herself the whole time. At the wire, as you saw, I geared her down probably two or three gears. She was doing it so easy and we've got another big race coming up; I certainly didn't want to make her do any more than she had to."
The Beldame is a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" event for the Nov. 2 Ladies' Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park, and although Royal Delta already secured her automatic berth with a victory in the Delaware Handicap (gr. II) earlier this year, racing fans will clamor to see her take on the boys in the Nov. 3 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) after a scintillating performance over her peers. The 4-year-old daughter of Empire Maker won the Ladies' Classic in 2011 en route to Eclipse Award honors as the top 3-year-old filly of the year.
Either way, Leon said his filly punched her ticket to California.
"It was outstanding and what she's capable of doing," he said of Royal Delta's performance. "I think we have her back. She ran her race, and just turned it on when she had to turn it on. She did her job, and she's an awesome filly. Any horse or any human being can have a bad day, and a lot of things happened in the Personal Ensign that made the race what it was. This is a prep race for the Breeders' Cup, and we'll be there."
Bred in Kentucky by the late Prince Saud bin Khaled's Palides Investments, Royal Delta is out of the A.P. Indy mare Delta Princess. She was purchased by Leon for his Besilu Stables at the Fasig-Tipton November mixed sale for $8.5 million when the Prince's horses were dispersed through his Chanteclair Farm. The Beldame score improved her record to 8-3-1 from 14 starts, with earnings of $2,623,851.