Besilu's Stable's Royal Delta looks to rebound off a disappointing run in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) when she takes on five other older fillies and mares as the 123-pound highweight in the $150,000 Fleur de Lis Stakes (gr. II) June 16 at Churchill Downs.
The 1 1/8-mile event will be the first start at Churchill for last season’s champion 3-year-old filly since her 2 ½-length score in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (gr. I) in November. She came off a runner-up finish to Awesome Maria in the Sabin Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park to finish ninth against the boys in the March 31 Dubai World Cup after being stopped in traffic last time out at Meydan.
“She just had a very poor trip in the Dubai World Cup,” remarked Benjamin Leon, owner of Besilu Stable. “I believe she’s capable of competing at that level and with a better trip I think she could have won. I’m really hoping she stays healthy and wins enough this year to be invited back again. I think she could become the first female to win the Dubai World Cup; she’s definitely of that caliber.”
Since returning to the states, Royal Delta has recorded a series of sizzling works at Belmont Park, the most recent coming June 10 in a four-furlong move in :47.45, third-fastest of 87 at the distance. Her prior three moves, two at five furlongs in :59.55 and :59.48, and one at four furlongs in :47.52, were fastest of all completed at the distance on the particular day.
The 4-year-old daughter of Empire Maker will be piloted by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith for the first time. He replaces regular rider Jose Lezcano.
“She’s been coming out of her skin since she came back from Dubai; she’s happy and healthy and we’re ready to get her started in this race,” said the Florida-based Leon, who said he will attend the race.
Dede McGehee’s St. John's River, runner-up in the May 4 La Troienne Stakes (gr. II) last time out, is the closest contestant in the weights to Royal Delta with an impost of 118. The 4-year-old Include filly missed the La Troienne, her season debut, by two lengths to 16-1 shot Juanita after launching a late run. Her last victory came in the July 7 Delaware Oaks (gr. II) off a runner-up finish to Plum Pretty in the 2011 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).
Afleeting Lady, a 5-year-old daughter of Afleet Alex owned and bred by James M Lauffer and W. D. Cubbedge, was fifth in the La Troienne but rebounded from that off-the-board finish to deliver a May 19 allowance score over It's Tea Time for trainer Dale Romans. It was a length back to that contender, a 5-year-old homebred daughter of Dynaformer who has not won for owner Alex Campbell Jr. and trainer George “Rusty” Arnold since taking the 2010 Woodford Reserve Lake Placid Stakes (gr. III).
Sterling Madame, a 5-year-old daughter of Unbridled Energy who won the May 26 Wild Rose Stakes at Prairie Meadows last time out for owner Andrena Van Doren and trainer Tom Amoss, and allowance winner Distorted Love, a 6-year-old daughter of Distorted Humor trained by Helen Pitts, complete the field for the race’s 37th running.
$150,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (gr. II, Race 7, 9:05 p.m.) Fillies and Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. St. John's River (KY), R Napravnik, 118, A Leggio Jr.
2. Sterling Madame (KY), L Goncalves, 115, T Amoss
3. Afleeting Lady (KY), C Lanerie, 116, D Romans
4. Distorted Love (KY), M Mena, 114, H Pitts
5. Royal Delta (KY), M Smith, 123, W Mott
6. It's Tea Time (KY), J Castellano, 115, G Arnold II