Long-striding Royal Delta delivered when it mattered most in 2012, and although her 4-year-old season was not without flaws, her winning performances were spectacular.
The champion 3-year-old filly of 2011 came back to tackle stiff challenges in the New Year—a start in the Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (UAE-I) and the defense of her Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I) title—while collecting earnings of $2,009,251.
Although the World Cup venture did not go as planned (the Empire Maker filly encountered traffic trouble and finished ninth), Royal Delta put on a brilliant show in the Breeders' Cup to close out the year, joining Bayakoa (1989-90) as just the second horse to win two editions of the Ladies' Classic (formerly Distaff).
The striking bay runner, purchased at the end of 2011 by Benjamin Leon on behalf of his Besilu Stables for $8.5 million, remained in training with Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott to prepare for her 2012 debut in the Sabin Stakes (gr. III). That Gulfstream Park race went awry when she stumbled at the start and was headstrong early, eventually finishing second far behind Awesome Maria. But the old Royal Delta showed her stuff when she came back from Dubai, cruising by eight lengths under Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith in the Fleur de Lis Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs.
A hard-earned victory by just a neck over 28-1 shot Tiz Miz Sue in the Delaware Handicap (gr. II) and a runner-up finish a half-length behind 10-1 upsetter Love and Pride in the Personal Ensign Handicap (gr. I) had challengers thinking Royal Delta might not be invincible in the Breeders' Cup. But in her final prep before heading to Santa Anita, she rocked the Beldame Invitational Stakes (gr. I) by 9 1⁄2 geared-down lengths.
The Ladies' Classic will be remembered as the performance that clinched Royal Delta's second championship title. In reverse of her traditional stalking style, she took control after an early scramble for the lead and clicked off rapid splits before kicking on to hold off the previously undefeated My Miss Aurelia by a 1 1⁄2-length margin. Her wire-to-wire victory proved what everyone in racing knows: On her game this filly is one for the ages.