Royal Delta, It's Tricky Are Beldame Stars
Royal Delta and It's Tricky look to recover from an Aug. 26 Personal Ensign (gr. I) upset and eye year-end honors when they meet for a fifth time Sept. 29 in the $400,000 Beldame Invitational (gr. I) at Belmont Park.
Won by 10-1 shot Love and Pride, the Personal Ensign at Saratoga Race Course was an eventful outing for the two 4-year-old fillies as they completed the trifecta. Heavily-favored Royal Delta, fourth by six lengths at the head of the stretch and swung four wide, was left with too much ground to make up and finished a length behind Love and Pride. It's Tricky was half a length back in third, having made a huge inside move to battle for the lead after stumbling badly twice leaving the gate.
Royal Delta is the even-money favorite on the Beldame morning line in a seven-horse field, with It's Tricky the 7-5 second choice. The one turn, 1 1/8-mile event is the first of six graded stakes on Belmont's 11-race "Super Saturday" card, with an approximate post of 2:58 p.m. EDT. It is a "Win and You're In" event for the Nov. 2 Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park.
Royal Delta, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2011, already earned an automatic berth to the Classic by winning the Delaware Handicap (gr. II) prior to the Personal Ensign. She also won the Fleur de Lis Stakes (gr. II) this season. Those wins came after the daughter of Empire Maker turned in a ninth against the boys in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) in March for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and Benjamin Leon's Besilu Stables.
It's Tricky, second to Royal Delta in the 2011 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I), carried a three-race win streak for Godolphin Racing into the Personal Ensign with victories in the Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I), Distaff Handicap (gr. II), and Top Flight Handicap (gr. II) on her resume in 2012. Kiaran McLaughlin trains the Mineshaft filly, who also won the TVG Acorn Stakes (gr. I) and TVG Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) last year.
Asked about their rivalry, Mott remarked, "It's been a good one... We beat her last time, although I have to be quite impressed with It's Tricky with the remarkable race she ran last time after stumbling at the start. It was one of those stumbles that could have kept her from being in the race at all. On her day, she's one to be reckoned with."
This will be Royal Delta's second attempt in the Beldame, having finished second last year, beaten 8 1/4 lengths by eventual Horse of the Year Havre de Grace. Royal Delta used the race as a springboard to her Ladies' Classic victory, and Mott laughed when asked about the importance of this year's edition.
"Frankly, it's a race I'd like to get on my resume as well as hers," he said. "It's a race I have never won. I know I've run in it with three of my Ladies' Classic winners, and each has been beaten. Royal Delta was second in it; Unrivaled Belle was second and she won the Breeders' Cup; and a filly named Ajina was second and she won the Breeders' Cup. So, do I hope I win it? I'd love to win it, but if I'm second, maybe it's OK."
Royal Delta figures to be in her usual spot stalking the pace from third or fourth, and likely will spot an early advantage to It's Tricky, who should be up near the lead with the speedy Cash for Clunkers.
McLaughlin has kept It's Tricky at Saratoga at the Greentree Training Center to prepare for the Beldame and will ship her downstate Sept. 28.
"She's doing great," McLaughlin said. "I was up there for her work two weeks ago, and she worked this Saturday, and she's doing very, very well. She's happy. She certainly isn't missing oats."
It's Tricky is undefeated in two starts at Belmont Park, and has never lost a one-turn race.
"We have good pace and always are there close," McLaughlin said. "We feel like the situation is great with the weights being equal at 123 pounds. We gave Love and Pride nine pounds last time in the Personal Ensign when she stumbled."
The rest of the Beldame field is an assortment of familiar names but only Saratoga Dew victress Go Unbridled comes off a win. That 6 1/2-length triumph at Saratoga Aug. 27 was the 5-year-old Unbridled Jet mare's single score of 2012 for trainer Allen Jerkens and owner Howard Whitbred.
Jay Em Ess Stable's Acting Happy steps up from the allowance ranks in search of a win. The 5-year-old Empire Maker mare was third last out for trainer Rick Dutrow in a high-quality field at Saratoga behind runner-up St. John's River. She won the Black Eyed Susan (gr. II) at Pimlico Race Course in 2010.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who conditions Love and Pride, will try to upset again with Disposablepleasure, the 3-year-old daughter of Giacomo who was second in the Black Eyed Susan (gr. II) and Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I) earlier in the season. Glencrest Farm's gray or roan runner recently took an unsatisfactory trip over the lawn in the Aug. 19 Woodford Reserve Lake Placid Stakes (gr. IIT) after running fourth in the CCA Oaks, and looks to return to the form that saw her take the 2011 Demoiselle Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Cash for Clunkers, a Rick Violette-trained daughter of Tiznow who was second in the Odgen Phipps for Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence two starts ago, needs to rebound off a seventh-place finish in the Delaware Handicap last out. In her race before the Ogden Phipps she recorded a 100 Beyer speed figure when winning the Heatherten at 1 1/16 miles at Belmont.
Maristar, also coming off a seventh, ships in from Woodbine for trainer Gerard Butler. The 5-year-old Giant's Causeway mare last raced in the July 22 Ontario Matron Stakes (gr. III) going 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track and was never a factor. She has not won for owner Dympna M. Deegan since July of 2011.
$400,000 Beldame Invitational Stakes (gr. I, Race 5, 2:58 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. Go Unbridled (NY), J. Rosario, 123, H A Jerkens, 20-1
2. Maristar (KY), J.R. Velazquez, 123, T A Pletcher, 15-1
3. Royal Delta (KY), M.E. Smith, 123, W I Mott, even money
4. Cash for Clunkers (KY), A. Garcia, 123, R A Violette, Jr., 8-1
5. Disposablepleasure (KY), R.A. Dominguez, 120, T A Pletcher, 12-1
6. It's Tricky (KY), E. Castro, 123, K P McLaughlin, 7-5
7. Acting Happy (KY), J. Castellano, 123, R E Dutrow, Jr., 20-1
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