When Royal Delta
goes postward in Saturday’s Grade 1 TVG Alabama, it will be a bittersweet
and somewhat sentimental moment for her Hall of Fame trainer, Bill Mott.
In February, Royal Delta’s breeder and owner, Prince Saud bin
Khaled, passed away, and in November, the daughter of Empire Maker out of Delta
Princess will be sold at auction. Before he died, Khaled got to see Royal
Delta’s eye-catching maiden victory at Belmont Park last October 30, in
which she came charging from seventh to win by 12 lengths, going away.
“He always loved a good one,” said Mott of Khaled, for whom
he trained for nearly 20 years. “He bred a lot of good horses; he sold a
lot of horses, too. It was exciting for him to have this one to race.”
Along with nearly everyone else, Mott was blown away by Royal
Delta’s maiden victory, particularly as her dam was a multiple graded
stakes winner on the turf.
“She had always worked so well on the dirt, we said
‘Let’s try,’” said Mott of the filly, who carries the
colors of Khaled’s Palides Investments. “Obviously, being an Empire
Maker, she could go either way. She always outworked everyone she was working
with. I don’t think we were absolutely surprised that she won, but I
don’t think we expected what we saw. She kept drawing away, and I said,
Royal Delta did not return to the races until March, when she ran a dull
ninth of 10 as the favorite in the Suncoast at Tampa Bay Downs. A month later,
over the artificial surface at Keeneland Race Course, she sparkled in winning a
1 1/16-mile allowance. While a start in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks was under
consideration, Royal Delta was sent to Pimlico, where she notched her first
stakes win in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan on May 20.
That performance earned her a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 and a two-month
rest, after which Royal Delta returned to finish third to It’s Tricky and
Plum Pretty in the Grade 1 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga.
“She didn’t settle well, she didn’t rate well,”
said Mott of the filly’s performance. “She was a little strong with
the rider early on and I think it compromised her finish.”
Following the July 23 race, Royal Delta’s connections pondered a
move to the turf, a surface over which her dam won six turf stakes –
including Grade 3 triumphs in the Beaugay Handicap, Mint Julep Handicap, and
Locust Grove. On August 8, with an eye toward a possible start in the Grade 2
Lake Placid on August 21, Mott had the filly work on the turf in company with
Drosselmeyer, covering the five furlongs in 59.04.
“We were experimenting,” said Mott. “We weren’t
using that so much as a conditioning workout as we were to see how she handled
the turf. We wanted to see if the turf would be an option for us later on down
the road; she came back and worked on the main track [5f, 1:00.88, August 14]
and was very good.”
While much of the attention in the Alabama is focused on It’s Tricky, who
also won the TVG Acorn and is bidding for a sweep of the TVG Triple Tiara, Mott
is hoping his filly can improve from her TVG Coaching Club American Oaks
“They beat us last time, but we hope we improve,” he said.
“We hope we run a better race. We’re going to have to run a better
race; I don’t think our filly ran her best race last time.”
A victory would not only enhance the filly’s value at auction
come November, it would mean a great deal sentimentally to Mott and his staff.
“She’s a very nice filly and whoever buys her is going to
be very lucky,” he said. “She’s from a good family, I would
think she’s not only a good racing prospect but a good broodmare
“If we could win the Alabama,
having the filly run in Mr. Khaled’s colors, that would be great,”
he added. “The thing we realize, in this business, is that none of them
go on forever, whether it be retirement, or in this case, being sold.
We’re lucky to have had her as long as we’ve had her. Even more
than losing her [in the sale], we’ve lost her owner, someone who was not
only a friend but very important to the business because he was a breeder and
an active player. It’s a loss for the business, not just for me.”