Royal Delta won the 2012 Delaware Handicap by a neck.

Royal Delta won the 2012 Delaware Handicap by a neck.

Royal Delta Seeks Redemption in Del 'Cap

Small field awaits champion mare for her title defense July 20 at Delaware Park.

Besilu Stables' champion racemare Royal Delta aims for a title defense July 20 in the $750,000 Delaware Handicap (gr. I), seeking redemption after a five-length loss in the June 15 Fleur de Lis Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs. The summer classic for fillies and mares will carry grade I status for the first time since 1989.

The 1 1/4-mile Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park went to the 5-year-old daughter of Empire Maker  in a nail-biter last season when she defeated Tiz Miz Sue by a hard-fought neck after winning the Fleur de Lis by eight lengths. Last year's Del 'Cap victory was also part of Royal Delta's second championship season, when she went on to become just the second runner in history to win back-to-back editions of the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I). 

This year there's no Tiz Miz Sue, who will bypass the weekend races and rest up for a start in the Aug. 25 Personal Ensign (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course (she finished fourth while Royal Delta was second in that event last year). And although the five others entered are hoping to find the defending champion soft, the field could be even smaller as two of the five—Padua Stables' Authenticity and Gillian Campbell and partners' Summer Applause—are cross-entered in the $200,000 Shuvee Handicap (gr. III) on the same day at Saratoga Race Course

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said Royal Delta has been training well since her loss at Churchill after a 10th-place finish in the March 30 Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (UAE-I). Her only win so far this year was in the Jan. 17 Sabin Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park.

"She is doing very well," Mott said. "We could not ask for her to be doing any better. I would love to see her run in the Delaware Handicap the way she ran in the Fleur de Lis last year. When she runs a good one, she is awesome. She never really runs poorly and I think it gets to the point where we expect her to win, so when she does not, but still runs well, we get a little dumbfounded."

Mott is encouraged Royal Delta won over the Delaware surface last year, but he is also cautious. The champion racemare carries 123-pound highweight under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith from post 3; last year she carried 124 compared to Tiz Miz Sue's 115.

"She handled it," he said. "I am not sure it was her best race, but she got the job done. We are planning on shipping down to Delaware the morning of the race. It worked last year, so I think that would be the best approach this year."

If Royal Delta wins the Delaware Handicap, she would become the sixth two-time winner of the marquee event. The most recent was Nastique, who accomplished the feat in 1988 and 1989. The last to make the attempt was Life at Ten, who won the Delaware Handicap in 2010 but finished third behind Blind Luck and eventual Horse of the Year Havre de Grace in 2011.
Helen Groves' And Why Not enters the Delaware Handicap off a runner-up finish in the June 15 Obeah Stakes (gr. III) going 1 1/8 miles at Delaware. Although the 4-year-old daughter of Street Cry does not have a win over the course, she has two seconds and a third in the 2012 Go For Wand Stakes there for trainer Michael Matz. Joshua Navarro rides from post 5 as part of a 115-pound impost.

"She had a little rest over the winter, and when we brought her back she had a real nice race in the Obeah," said Matz. "I think a mile and a quarter will be a great distance for her. I know she has only won one race, and that was as a 2-year-old, but she has been close a bunch of times. The big thing is the distance. She needs a lot of distance. The distance is perfect for her. There are not too many horses that can get a mile and a quarter. The one thing I know is that this filly can get a mile and a quarter and she had a real nice race over the track last time."

Authenticity comes off a second for trainer Todd Pletcher in the May 27 Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park, but the lightly-raced 6-year-old daughter of Quiet American had the lead in that 1 1/16-mile event and relinquished it after a game fight to wind up half a length behind Tiz Miz Sue. She won the La Troienne Stakes (gr. II) going the same distance by a head May 3 at Churchill and has been in the top three in all but one of her eight starts.
Summer Applause was last a two-length winner of the Allaire Du Pont Distaff Stakes (gr. III) May 18 at Pimlico Race Course. Earlier in the season, she took the Top Flight Handicap (gr. II) at Aqueduct Racetrack for trainer Chad Brown. The 4-year-old daughter of Harlan's Holiday was fourth in the 2012 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and won the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr. III) that year.
Authenticity and Summer Applause were both assigned 118 pounds from respective posts 4 and 2; in the Shuvee Authenticity would carry one pound more from the far outside in a seven-horse field, while Summer Applause drew the 6 hole beside her.
Darley's Centring, a 5-year-old A.P. Indy mare, was third in the Ogden Phipps for trainer Tom Albertrani and will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. carrying 115 pounds. Grade III winner She's All In, trained by Donnie K. Von Hemel for Robert Zoellner, is a 6-year-old daughter of Include  who finished third in the Fleur de Lis in her most recent start and will carry 112 pounds, including jockey Victor Carrasco, from the rail. 

$750,000 Delaware Handicap (gr. I, Race 9, approximate post 5:20 p.m. EDT), fillies & mares 3YOs & Up, 1 1/4 miles (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. She's All In (OK), V.R. Carrasco, 112, D K Von Hemel, 15-1
2. Summer Applause (KY), A. Cintron, 118, C C Brown, 7-2
3. Royal Delta (KY), M.E. Smith, 123, W I Mott, 1-1
4. Authenticity (KY), TBA, 118, T A Pletcher, 3-1
5. And Why Not (KY), J. Navarro, 112, M R Matz, 15-1
6. Centring (KY), I. Ortiz, Jr., 115, T Albertrani, 6-1