During that time of year when champions are gearing up for their new campaigns, a familiar name popped up at Payson Park. Royal Delta is back on the worktab.
The 5-year-old daughter of Empire Maker breezed an easy three furlongs in :38 flat Jan. 5 in South Florida, her first move for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott since a wire-to-wire victory in the Nov. 2 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park. She was just the second runner in history to notch consecutive scores in that event, joining Bayakoa (1989-90) as the only two-time winner.
"She's certainly where we need her to be at his point, she's doing well, and she was ready to breeze," Mott said. "We thought we'd get her started and do a little something with her, and she just did that galloping. I was pleased with the work and she came back well; she's been out on the track the past two days and she's doing fine."
Leading candidate for outstanding older mare at the upcoming Jan. 19 Eclipse Awards ceremony and the champion 3-year-old filly of 2011, Royal Delta is prepping for a 2013 campaign expected to include a start in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) March 30 at Meydan for Benjamin Leon's Besilu Stables.
Much like last year, Mott said, the racemare will have her season debut in the $100,000 Sabin Stakes (gr. III), 1 1/16 miles on the dirt for older fillies and mares at Gulfstream Park scheduled for Feb. 17. In 2012, Royal Delta finished second to the now-retired Awesome Maria in the Sabin after stumbling at the start.
The World Cup has been a goal for Royal Delta since last year's edition, when she ran ninth after an unfortunate trip. That was her only off-the-board finish of 2012; she returned to the U.S. and romped in the Fleur de Lis (gr. II) and Delaware Park (gr. II) handicaps and was second in the Personal Ensign (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course. She rumbled by 9 1/2 lengths in the Beldame Invitational (gr. I) before putting on a show in the Ladies' Classic under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.
Since the Breeders' Cup, Royal Delta has enjoyed a period of downtime at Payson, where Mott keeps his winter string. She is turned out for two hours every day and "really enjoys her turnout time," the trainer said.
Royal Delta, bred in Kentucky by Palides Investments out of the multiple graded stakes-winning A.P. Indy mare Delta Princess, has a 9-3-1 record from 15 starts, with earnings of $3,703,851. She was an $8.5 million purchase by Besilu at the 2011 Keeneland November sale.