2011 Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Royal Delta is back and she’s
been looking better than ever. The 4-year-old Empire Maker filly leads a field
of 6 fillies and mares on Saturday at Churchill Downs in the $150,000 Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Stakes. When last we saw the impressive daughter of Empire Maker she had
made the ambitious pilgrimage to Dubai to take on some of the best thoroughbred
colts and geldings in the world in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (gr.1). She
ultimately finished 9th in Dubai, struggling to find her best stride
on the Meyden All-Weather track and trainer Bill Mott is ready for his filly to
remind racing fans why she was voted an Eclipse Award winner last year.
In two starts this year Royal Delta has been unable to make
it to the winners circle thus far, but all that could be about to change if her
impressive series of works is any indication. In her last four workouts she has
posted three straight bullet works and a speedy four furlong move that ranked
the 3rd fastest of 87 moves. On May 27th she went five
furlongs in :59.48 and then came back in just one week to post another five
furlongs in :59.55. Getting one five furlong work in under a minute is notable on
its own, but posting two similar works back-to-back tells me this filly is
ready to roll. Her last work on Sunday was a four furlong move she completed in
an excellent time of :47.45. Mott appears to have his filly loaded and ready to
spring on Saturday, and the jockey change from Jose Lezcano to hall of fame
rider Mike Smith certainly doesn’t hurt her chances.
The biggest competition to Royal Delta on paper is 2011
Kentucky Oaks runner-up St. John’s River. The Include filly made her first
start, since finishing 5th in the Alabama Stakes (gr.1) last year,
when she finished second to long shot Juanita, with Plum Pretty third, in the
La Troienne Stakes (gr.2) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks day. Being that
the La Troienne was her first start in more than 8 months I’m willing to bet
she’ll run even better this time out. Her last work came a week ago on Thursday
when she breezed four furlongs in :48.80 for trainer Andrew Leggio Jr.
Afleeting Lady also exits the La Troienne Stakes, having
finished a distant fifth in that race. She returned to the track 15 days later
to capture an allowance race by more than two lengths over fellow Fleur de Lis
contestant, It’s Tea Time. She most recently posted a bullet :47.20 four
furlong work at Churchill Downs on Sunday. After the power-house duo of Royal Delta and St. John's River she seems like the most logical third choice.
It’s Tea Time has posted two beautiful four furlong moves at
Keeneland, both of which stopped the timer at :47.00 flat. She appears to be
coming into the Fleur de Lis in great shape, however, you have to go 15 starts
back to find her last win which came in the 2010 Woodford Reserve Lake Placid
Stakes (gr.3) so it's going to take a monumental step forward to win or even finish ahead of the top two.
Distorted Love and Sterling Madame complete the field.
Sterling Madame enters off a strong 12 ½ length victory in the Wild Rose Stakes
at Prairie Meadows on May 26th. As impressive as that win was, it was
against poor competition and will mostly likely not translate into the same form
in the Fleu de Lis. Distorted Love hasn’t won a race since capturing a 1 mile
allowance race at Churchill Downs 12 starts back in late May of last year.
This looks like a two horse race between Royal Delta and St.
John’s River, and of the two Royal Delta looks poised to run a huge
race. I think Bill Mott’s got a winner on his hands and I think we’ll finally
see the real 2012 Royal Delta show up on Saturday.