Royal Delta easily won her 2013 debut by five lengths in the Sabin Stakes at Gulfstream (Photos courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire).
A two-time champion, Royal Delta is the latest in a long line of great mares already this century.
The Empire Maker daughter is preparing for her bid for a third Breeders’ Cup victory, a task that became a bit easier on Aug. 25 when she won the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Handicap. The Personal Ensign was the second “Win and You’re In” event for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (previously the Ladies’ Classic), so it was only fitting that the defending Distaff winner won a spot in the race.
Royal Delta showed her greatness from the beginning when she easily won her career debut by 12 lengths in October of her 2-year-old year. She received a bit of a break after the victory, and came back to run a dull ninth in her return.
Her first graded stakes win came in the Black-Eyed Susan, a Grade 2 event for 3-year-old fillies held on Preakness Stakes weekend, and preceded a third-place finish in her first Grade 1 attempt. It was the last time Royal Delta wasn’t first or second in an American race as she really improved with maturity later in her 3-year-old campaign.
She won the Alabama Stakes to really solidify her status as a top 3-year-old filly. Even though she lost her next start in the Beldame Invitational Stakes, it was a runner-up finish to eventual Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, so no disgrace there. She went off as the deserved favorite in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Distaff and confirmed her class with a 2 ½-length victory.
Royal Delta had a change of ownership at the end of the year when she was sold for $8.5 million to Ben Leon’s Besilu Stables the week after the Breeders’ Cup, but that proved to be a good move for fans as she remained in training.
Royal Delta traveled to the Dubai World Cup in her second start as a 4-year-old, and the trip to the desert was a bit of a disappointment as she finished 9th in the race, a move that was repeated in 2013 with a 10th-place finish behind Animal Kingdom.
In between her two Dubai World Cup tries, she won five out of six races. She also made history by becoming only the second female to win two Breeders’ Cup Distaffs, a feat also accomplished by Bayakoa.
A LOOK AT ROYAL DELTA'S CAREER
Royal Delta had a tough return from Dubai this year, finishing second by five lengths to Funny Proposition at Churchill Downs in the Fleur de Lis Handicap. However, after that start trainer Bill Mott took her off of Salix (Furosemide) and she’s won her last two starts by a combined margin of 15 ¼ lengths.
Royal Delta will have her final start before the Breeders’ Cup in the Sept. 28 Beldame Handicap, a race she won by 9 ½ lengths last year. She most likely will be nominated for both the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Distaff, but her connections are leaning toward trying to go for a three-peat in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
For Royal Delta, there’s really no question about her ability to excel at the Distaff distance and the surface. She has a record of six wins in 10 starts at 1 1/8 miles and is undefeated in one start at Santa Anita.
It seems that the only concern in the Distaff will be if she can maintain her excellent form. With Princess of Sylmar skipping the Breeders’ Cup this year, it doesn’t seem like there is any real threat to her unless she takes a step back or another female takes a significant step forward in the next two months.
Of course, if she does run in the Classic, all of this information is null and void. But it is worth noting that she is undefeated in three starts on a conventional dirt track at the Breeders’ Cup Classic distance of 1 ¼ miles.
From a pedigree standpoint, Royal Delta has it all.
Her sire, Empire Maker, was the 2003 Belmont Stakes winner and has produced 41 stakes winners and 275 winners in his career at stud. Royal Delta may be the last top American-bred we see from Empire Maker as he was sold to stand in Japan in late 2010. However, Empire Maker has been well received in his new country, siring 165 foals in his first Japanese crop and being bred to 236 mares in 2012.
Royal Delta’s female family is notable for its class as well.
She is out of multiple graded stakes winner Delta Princess, who has also produced two other graded stakes-placed foals, including a full brother to Royal Delta.
Delta Princess is a full-sister to Grade 1 winner Indy Five Hundred and a half-sister to Italian Group 1 winner Biondetti. Their dam, Lyphard’s Delta, was also a graded stakes winner and is out of Proud Delta, the 1976 champion older female, who is also a producer of multiple stakes winners.
Overall, Royal Delta has the pedigree to match her race record. Unlike other potential entrants, she has very few questions left when it comes to the Distaff, making her an attractive bet at the right odds.