Two-time champion Royal Delta, the 2-5 morning line favorite for Saturday’s 38th
running of the $175,000-added Fleur de Lis Handicap
(Grade II), highlights the undercard of the Stephen Foster Handicap (GI)
on the Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka
racing program at Churchill Downs.
The Fleur de Lis
Presented by Etihad Airways, for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles, is
one of five graded stakes races on Saturday’s million-dollar program
that also includes the $100,000-added Matt Winn
(GIII) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, the $100,000-added Regret (GIII)
for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on the turf and the
$100,000-added President of United Arab Emirates Cup (GI) for Arabian
4-year-olds and up at 1/16 miles.
Besilu Stables LLC
and Benjamin Leon Jr.
Royal Delta cruised to an eight-length victory in last year’s Fleur de
Lis and now seeks to join Likely Exchange (1978, ’80) as the only
winners of the race. Like last year, the Fleur de Lis will be Royal
Delta’s return to racing following a March journey to Dubai. In her most
recent try at the $10 million Dubai World Cup (GI), Royal Delta
2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom
timing is the same as it was last year and I think we’ve got a similar
amount of work in her,” Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott
“She’s doing well and it’s just time to go back to
the races with her. I think she’s perhaps a little bigger and stronger
than last year, appearance-wise. She’s a year older and I think she’s
becoming a fully-mature horse.”
victory in last year’s Fleur de Lis, Royal Delta recorded victories in
the Delaware Handicap (GII) and Beldame (GI) before scoring her second
consecutive win in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic
With Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winner Fort Larned
running in the Stephen Foster, Saturday will mark the fourth time – but
first in the winter, spring or summer – that defending Breeders’ Cup
and Ladies’ Classic champs will compete on the same program. The last
occurred Sept. 27, 2008 at Belmont Park when Curlin
won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI) and Ginger Punch
finished second in the Beldame.
In her attempt to
defend her crown, Royal Delta will give 10 or 11 pounds to each of her
four rivals. Her assigned weight of 125 pounds would be the most carried
by a winner of the Fleur de Lis. Heatherten
(1984), Serena’s Song
(1996), Banshee Breeze
(1999) and Rachel Alexandra
(2010) carried 124 pounds.
The main competition for Royal Delta could be Wine Princess
winner of last year’s Monmouth Oaks (GIII) and most recently a
seven-length winner of an allowance/optional-claiming race at Churchill
Downs on Opening Night of the Spring Meet on April 27. Owned by Becky Winemiller
and trained by Steve Margolis
, Wine Princess is a 4-year-old chestnut daughter of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper and 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri.
“We’re getting 10
pounds from her, which is definitely a help,” Margolis said. “Royal
Delta is a proven champion and a serious racehorse, but we’ve got
quality too and we’re undefeated on the dirt here.
We’re looking forward to the challenge and feel our horse deserves a
The two other graded stakes winners in the field are Robert Zoellner
’s homebred She’s All In
, winner of the 2012 Sixty Sails (GIII) at Hawthorne, and Ice Cream Silence
, winner of the
Doubledogdare (GIII) on the Polytrack at Keeneland in April. John Oxley
’s Funny Proposition
an impressive three-length winner in a one-mile allowance /
optional-claiming race at Churchill Downs on May 17, rounds out the
The Fleur de Lis
is scheduled to go as Race 6 at 8:30 p.m. (all times Eastern) on the
11-race card and kicks off an all stakes Pick 4 that concludes with the
Regret, which goes as Race 9 at 10:11 p.m.
The field for the
Fleur de Lis Handicap from the rail out (with jockey, weight and
morning-line odds): Funny Proposition (Joel Rosario, 114, 6-1), Ice
Cream Silence (Rosie Napravnik, 115, 10-1), Wine Princess
(Shaun Bridgmohan, 115, 4-1), She’s All In (Ricardo Santana Jr., 114,
10-1) and Royal Delta (Mike Smith, 125, 2-5).