Royal Delta was back in top form in Saturday's Grade 1, $392,000 Beldame at Belmont Park, demolishing four opponents including arch-rival It's Tricky. Under Mike Smith, the Bill Mott-trained champion opened up a wide lead turning for home and crossed the wire 9 1/2 lengths in front as the 4-5 favorite. Royal Delta returned $3.70, $2.20 and $2.10.
When expected speed Cash for Clunkers missed the break after hitting the starting gate, 6-5 second choice It's Tricky assumed the early lead. Rather than let It's Tricky get loose, Smith chose to apply some pressure aboard Royal Delta.
"(When Cash for Clunkers didn't break) it changed for me because now I've got to make sure and not let It's Tricky get away with something too easy," Smith said.
After a lead of a half-length through a modest opening quarter of :24, It's Tricky sped up and hit the half-mile marker in :46 3/5 with a one-length lead. It was at this point Royal Delta decided she had had enough of chasing It's Tricky.
"I'll be honest with you, halfway down the backside my mare really gathered herself," Smith said. "She was moving, at that point, so much better than It's Tricky, he was having to push her along to keep pace with me, and I thought 'wow,' I hope I'm not going too, too fast and set it up for someone behind me,' but she was well within herself the whole time. At the wire, as you saw, I geared her down probably two or three gears. She was doing it so easy and we've got another big race coming up, I certainly didn't want to make her do any more than she had to."
Royal Delta effortlessly moved past It's Tricky around the far turn, hit the three-quarter marker in 1:10 while a half-length in front, and then poured it on through the Belmont stretch. The final time for nine furlongs over a good track was 1:48 4/5.
"It's nice to win the race and turn it around a little bit," Mott said. "I'm glad for Royal Delta; she got beat last time, came back, and avenged that loss today. She ran a super race -- broke well, took it to the horse on the lead and she was much the best today. Just a very impressive performance."
It's Tricky held second by 1 1 /4 lengths over 17-1 chance Go Unbridled, who was 2 3/4 lengths clear of Maristar. Cash for Clunkers initially recovered from her poor start to track in third down the backside, but wilted down the lane to trail the quintet, nine lengths behind Maristar. Acting Happy and Disposablepleasure were scratched.
Royal Delta is now 3-2-0 from six stars this season, with her only off-the-board placing coming when ninth in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup at Meydan in late March. That race followed her season-opening second in the Grade 3 Sabin, and the dark bay was given plenty of time to recover from her overseas experience before running in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 16, which she won by eight lengths.
Following a gutsy neck score in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap, where she conceded nine pounds to runner-up Tiz Miz Sue, Royal Delta was upset by Love and Pride in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Handicap at Saratoga last time. Washy in the post parade, Royal Delta missed by only a half-length but never looked a serious threat to win during the stretch run.
"She was much calmer today in the post parade," Smith said. "I think I had a bit to do with that last time (in the Personal Ensign). I didn't know her as well as I do now. When she likes to move, you've got to let her move. The other day I kept trying to keep her quiet and keep her still and I think it just agitated her more and she got hot and got hot. So, today when she wanted to kick on, I just let her open up and gallop, let her open up coming back. She was much better. I learned a little something; I was glad Bill (Mott) brought it to my attention. If that was the difference, I'm not sure, but she was really leading up to this race for this kind of a performance. If you look at her works they were much different than her works before the race in Saratoga, so whatever he's doing, he's doing it right and she's coming around at the right time."
Royal Delta earned an Eclipse Award in 2011 by going 4-1-1 from seven starts, including wins in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, Grade 1 Alabama and Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan, while placing in the Beldame and Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks. Her career mark now stands at 14-8-3-1, $2,623,851.
Royal Delta was campaigned by her breeder, Palides Investments N.V. Inc., through her Breeders' Cup triumph then passed through the sales ring for the first time just three days after that score. She sold for a sale-topping $8.5 million at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale to Benjamin Leon's Besilu Stables, which was the most ever paid for a horse in training at Keeneland November and the most paid for any horse at the sale since broodmare Playful Act brought $10.5 million in 2007. The previous Keeneland record for a horse in training was the $6.1 million paid by Aaron Jones for the graded stakes-winning colt Half Ours in 2006.
The Kentucky-bred Royal Delta is descended from a black-type rich family as a daughter of the A.P. Indy mare Delta Princess. That one would capture six stakes, including three Grade 3 contests, during her time on track while racking up nearly $750,000 in earnings. Royal Delta's second dam is Group 2 victress Lyphard's Delta, who would go on in the breeding shed to produce Grade/Group 1 winners Biondetti and Indy Five Hundred.
Lyphard's Delta is herself a daughter of Proud Delta, who was honored as champion older female in 1976, and counts as a full brother Grade 3 hero and sire Proud Debonair.
A daughter of Empire Maker, Royal Delta has a three-year-old full brother named Empire Way, whose best achievement to date is a second to dual classic winner I'll Have Another in the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis.