Besilu Stable’s Royal Delta, North America’s champion 3-year-old
filly of 2011, returned to the scene of her greatest victory with a
jaw-dropping, eight-length victory over Afleeting Lady in the $161,700
Fleur de Lis Handicap Presented by Finlandia Vodka on Saturday night at
The Fleur de Lis, which means “flower of the lily” and honors the
symbol in the city of Louisville’s flag, was the third of four graded
stakes races run under the lights as part of Churchill Downs’ special
“Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka”
nighttime racing program.
Royal Delta, who capped her championship season a year ago with a 2
½-length triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at Churchill
Downs, rebounded from a ninth-place finish in the $10 million Dubai
World Cup (GI) to clock 1 1/8 miles on a fast main track in 1:49.49,
which was 1.02 seconds fast than Ron the Greek would run in the Grade I,
$437,200 Stephen Foster Handicap one race later.
Ridden for the first time by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith and
conditioned by Hall of Fame and Churchill Downs all-time leading trainer
Bill Mott, Royal Delta collected her sixth victory – fourth in graded
stakes company – from 11 career starts. The $99,251 first prize jumped
her career earnings to $1,813,851.
The 4-year-old daughter of Empire Maker out of the A.P. Indy mare
Delta Princess relaxed while close and three-wide in the early stages of
the race as Sterling Madame set fractions of :23.71 and :47.70.
Afleeting Lady briefly grabbed the lead on the far turn and clocked
three-quarters of a mile in 1:12.03 as Royal Delta began to quickly
engulf the leaders. The winner was ridden by Smith around the turn and
into the stretch to put the runner-up away and was gathered up nearly
the entire final furlong en route to an impressive score.
Royal Delta paid $3.20, $2.60 and $2.10 as the 3-5 odds-on favorite
in the field of six fillies and mares. Afleeting Lady, who was 4 ¼
lengths clear of third-place finisher St. John’s River, returned $3.80
and $2.60. St. John’s River paid $2.20. Sterling Madame, It’s Tea Time
and Distorted Love completed the order of finish.
This was third Fleur de Lis victory for Mott, who also won with Heatherten in 1984 and Escena in 1998.
FLEUR DE LIS HANDICAP QUOTES
Benjamin Leon, owner of Royal Delta, winner: “She ran good in Dubai,
but had a bad trip. Today, I don't think (jockey) Mike (Smith) had to
hit her a single time. He gave her a great ride and the filly did her
job. I'm very happy.”
Bill Mott, trainer of Royal Delta, winner: “Without a doubt, it was
very good to see. She had a nice, smooth trip today and gave a good
effort. She's a champion. She was a deserving champion last year and it
looks like right now, from what we saw tonight, there are more good
things to come.”
Q: What's next? “The Delaware Handicap is possible.”
Mike Smith, jockey on Royal Delta, winner: “She’s just a monster.
They way she drove away from some really good fillies was pretty
impressive. Bill (Mott) said to get her out of there and break well and
try not to take too much hold of her or I would change her stride. He
said to try to get in a rhythm with her.
“She just had them over a
barrel today. I could tell you a lot of different things, but I could
have ridden her backwards today and she still would have won.”
Corey Lanerie, jockey on Afleeting Lady, second: “I was second-best.
That filly is just something special. I got my filly to relax good and
the race set up just like I thought. I thought I’d be laying second and
hopefully I’d get the jump on her (Royal Delta) and kick on, but she was
in my pocket at the quarter pole. I was glad to be second. She just put
us away. She is in another class.”
Q: Afleeting Lady continues to
run well … “She’s a very nice filly. She ran her eyeballs out and gave
me everything she had. She just couldn’t beat that one.”
Rosie Napravnik, jockey of St. John’s River, third: “The pace wasn’t
exactly ideal for her. She could use a little more pace in front of her.
But I don’t think it was her best race. Not that it was a bad race. She
still ran pretty well. I just don’t think it was her best day.”