There’s an old saying in sports, “The cream will rise to the top.” Never has the idiom been more true than it is for Royal Delta. The two-time champion may have thrown in a few mediocre performances over the years, but when the pedal hits the metal, and the championship races really begin in earnest, you can bet your bottom dollar that the five-year-old mare will be up for the task. Just in case you were starting to question the daughter of Empire Maker’s dominance in the older female division, Royal Delta put on an absolute show in today's Grade I $750,000 Delaware Handicap. Given her cue early by rider, Mike Smith, she led at every pole in route to a 10¾-length runaway.
With no one else in the five horse field willing to take the race to her, Royal Delta was more than happy to assume command in the first of the ten panels. Opening up throughout the backstretch, the defending Delaware Handicap champ was about seven lengths clear of the rest on the far turn, and proceeded to pour it on down the lane. As Mike Smith geared her down, the stretch run of the history rich race was more of a one-woman show than a horse race. The 2-5 favorite cantered to the wire, finalizing the 1¼ miles in a very respectable 2:02.04.
Her Hall of Fame rider admitted that it was very much like it looked. "This is about as easy as it gets," Smith said. "When we turned for home my main concern was just to make sure I stayed aboard."
Another Hall of Famer, and winning trainer, Bill Mott all but dismissed her two-race losing streak coming into the race, and talked about her recent sharpness. "You can just put a line through the Dubai race, and she didn't bring her "A" game last time out. She had been training so well for this one. So well, we thought maybe she trained too well, but she ran just like she's been training.”
Royal Delta, who now appears poised and on her way to becoming a rare three-time Eclipse Award winner, won for the 11th time in 19 career starts, while raising her career earnings to over $4.25 million.
As for what’s next for Royal Delta, Mott said it’s on to Saratoga for the Besilu Stables star. “We're looking to go in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga for her next start."
Maybe she just needed a wake up call, or perhaps it’s a case of the champion just now gearing up at the right time of year, but Royal Delta served notice to the racing world that she still has it. She is the best older female in the land, and whether or not it’s an attempt at a third Ladies’ Classic victory, or maybe a first try in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Royal Delta will be a force to be reckoned with at Santa Anita. That is, after all, what champions do.