Two-time champion Royal Delta has been retired and will be bred to Galileo, connections of the 5-year-old daughter of Empire Maker announced Nov. 20.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott first for Palides Investments, and then Besilu Stables, Royal Delta won 12 of 22 starts and earned $4,811,126. She was voted champion 3-year-old filly of 2011 and champion older mare in 2012.
Bred in Kentucky by Palides, the nom de plume of the late Prince Saud bin Khaled, Royal Delta won her only start as a 2-year-old and then blossomed into championship form at 3 when she won four of seven starts, with one second and a third. Victorious in the 2011 TVG Alabama Stakes (gr. I) and Black-Eyed Susan (gr. II) to go along with a second in the Beldame Invitational Stakes and third in the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks, both grade I, Royal Delta lit up the track at Churchill Downs and sewed up an Eclipse Award with a scintillating victory in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I).
Following the Breeders' Cup, Royal Delta was sent straight to the sales ring as part of the Keeneland November breeding stock sale consignment of Chanteclair Farm to disperse Paildes Investments following its owner's death.
Just as she had electrified the track in Louisville, Royal Delta lit up the Keeneland pavilion as Besilu Stables' Ben Leon outbid Adena Springs' Frank Stronach to buy the filly for $8.5 million, the third-highest price paid at a Keeneland November sale.
"I've had many great moments in my life but the joy and pleasure that Royal Delta has brought to me and my family is indescribable," Leon said. "She offered us the opportunity to enjoy wonderful places, people and experiences. She was a gift that allowed us many thrilling moments and we will be forever grateful.
"Retiring her was a tough decision especially given the fact that she looks as good as she does, but we believe in doing what's in her best interest. I would like to give special thanks to her Hall of Fame trainer and my friend Bill Mott who has guided her through such a successful racing career and also to my friend, Mike Smith, her Hall of Fame rider. I am looking forward to our future and the new chapter in her life."
Kept with Mott, Royal Delta retained her championship form at age 4, with victories in the Beldame, Delaware Handicap (gr. II), and Fleur de Lis Handicap (gr. II) en route to successfully defending her Ladies' Classic title at Santa Anita Park. Her season record of four wins and seconds in the Personal Ensign (gr. I) and Sabin Stakes (gr. III) secured Royal Delta a second Eclipse Award.
Royal Delta launched her 2013 campaign with another victory in the Sabin before being shipped to Dubai for the $10 million Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates (UAE-I).
A disappointing 10th in the world's richest race won by Animal Kingdom , Royal Delta was rested until June when she finished second in the Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs.
With her connections aiming Royal Delta again at a third Breeders' Cup in the renamed Distaff (gr. I), the mare began her quest with a back-to-back victories in the Delaware Handicap, which had been upgraded to grade I status, and the Personal Ensign.
“Royal Delta was so talented," Mike Smith said. "When she brought her A game she could beat any horse in training. She was a monster in the Fleur de Lis at Churchill—ran more than a second faster than the boys (Ron the Greek and Wise Dan in the grade I Stephen Foster), and she ran like that again this year at Delaware and in the Personal Ensign.”
Sent to post as the 7-5 favorite in the six-horse Distaff field, Royal Delta and jockey Mike Smith stalked the early pace of Authenticity and appeared poised for a big run with five-eighths of a mile remaining before eventually finishing fourth in the race won by 3-year-old filly Beholder.
Royal Delta jogs at Santa Anita for the 2013 Breeders' Cup: