Before the July 23 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I), Bill Mott hinted that Royal Delta might not be ready to fire her best effort. Recovering from a minor foot bruise, the Empire Maker filly went on to finish a distant third behind It's Tricky and Plum Pretty, who were separated by less than a length.
With a race under her belt, Royal Delta was primed for a monster run in the $500,000 TVG Alabama (gr. I) (VIDEO) Aug. 20 and she did just that, blowing by It’s Tricky and Plum Pretty at the eighth pole and powering home for a impressive 5 1/2-length victory at Saratoga. It was the first grade I win for the dark bay/brown filly and the victory put her right into the thick of things in a suddenly wide-open 3-year-old filly division.
With Jose Lezcano aboard, Royal Delta covered 1 1/4 miles on the fast dirt in 2:03.13. It was the third win in five starts this year for the Palides Investments N. V. homebred, who captured the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II) in May at Pimlico Race Course.
As expected, Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Plum Pretty set the pace in the Alabama and took the field of six around in splits of :24.54, :49.31, 1:13.12, and 1:37.05 under Martin Garcia. It’s Tricky, winner of the Acorn Stakes (gr. I) and CCA Oaks, was never far behind Plum Pretty with Eddie Castro aboard and was right on her heels when they hit the quarter pole.
Royal Delta, also close to the two leaders throughout, was in perfect striking position turning for home and at the top of the stretch she sprinted by both of them from the outside. Royal Delta ducked in sharply in upper stretch, but she was already clear of It’s Tricky and was never threatened in the final furlongs.
It's Tricky was one length in front of rallying 18-1 longshot Pinch Pie for second.
“I tried to make her relax today," Lezcano said. "Last time she was a little rank, she fought with the bit. But today, I let her break and run the first quarter, and after that I took a little hold and she got very relaxed. I asked her at the quarter pole and took her out, and she gave me a big kick. She really took off.”
Royal Delta improved to 4-0-1 from six lifetime starts and upped her earnings to $544,600. By defeating It’s Tricky and Plum Pretty, she jumped into the mix atop the division standings. The filly also counts an allowance win at Keeneland among her victories this year.
“I think she needed (the CCA Oaks) in a lot of ways, not just conditioning, but also mentally," said Mott, who toyed with the idea of running Royal Delta on turf this weekend. "She was a little fresh in that race, and we tried to sit in behind; farther (back). Today the plan was to lay closer and let her find her stride, and she was able to do that. She was really comfortable.
“It’s a great race to win. We’ve won it before with Sweet Symphony (2005), and it’s just special. The owner of the horse, who is a special friend of mine, is not with us today, but I’m sure he is watching. We have always thought she was a nice filly, and she proves us right all the time.”
The winner was bred in Kentucky and is out of the A. P. Indy mare Delta Princess.
Sent off as the fifth choice, Royal Delta paid $13, $6.40, and $4.50. It's Tricky, the 2-1 favorite, returned $3.90 and $3.30, and completed a $40.40 exacta (1-4). The trifecta (1-4-2) was worth $408.50 with Pinch Pie, who paid $5.20 to show.