Race of the Week 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

Royal Delta or Awesome Maria in the Delaware Handicap?

On Saturday at Delaware Park two of the best horses in the country will face-off at the classic distance of 1 ¼ miles. That’s right; I said two of the best horses, with no qualifier needed to designate this dynamic duo as female horses. Royal Delta and Awesome Maria have earned their lofty position among racing’s elite through extended excellence, and in the Delaware Handicap we can see them go at it at a distance nearly forgotten for the distaff set on dirt. Both promise to be in peak form for the mid-summer classic test, and the winner will undoubtedly become the top rated female horse in the land. With all this build-up, it’s no wonder that I say, this could be the best Delaware Handicap in 12 months … Say what???
As good as the potential meeting between Royal Delta and Awesome Maria may be, they would need to team-up to tilt the Earth off its axis to outdo what we saw in last year’s Delaware Handicap. Blind Luck and Havre de Grace put a fantastic exclamation point on their excellent rivalry in what can only be described as a classic.

The scintilating victory proved to be the last win in the brilliant career of Blind Luck. Meanwhile, the brave defeat did nothing to slow down Havre de Grace's march towards eventually being voted Horse of the Year for 2012. As you can see, Royal Delta and Awesome Maria have tons to live up to if they are going to approach what went down last year, but the pair have a good chance to make their own history on Saturday.
They’ve only met once, and only one was at their best that day. It was Awesome Maria as she proved to be too much to handle for Royal Delta in the Sabin Stakes back in February at Gulfstream Park. The five-year-old mare was making her first start since since June, while Royal Delta, champion of the 2011 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, was also making her 2012 debut. The younger champion was sent off as the 11-10 second choice in the five-horse field, while Awesome Maria was the 9-10 favorite coming off her eight month layoff. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Awesome Maria coasted over the strip that she loves. Royal Delta and jockey Jose Lezcano were always behind after stumbling at the start, and when she came to test the favorite at the top of the stretch, it was clear who was the better mare on that day. Awesome Maria rolled home, while Royal Delta showed her class by out-gaming Groupie Doll to the wire. At the finish, Awesome Maria was an impressive eight lengths clear. 

She since has scored a facile victory in the Rampart Stakes, before being upset by It’s Tricky in the Ogden Phipps Handicap. Pletcher takes the blame for that loss, saying that his grey star was nowhere near fully cranked for the grade 1 test at Belmont. Improvement is expected from the winner of 9 of 15 lifetime starts. The daughter of Maria’s Mon will likely not be favored this time though, in part because she is coming off the loss, but just as much because of what Royal Delta did last time.

After the defeat in Florida, Royal Delta traveled half way across the globe for trainer, Bill Mott, to run in the world’s richest race. She did not get it done in Dubai, but it was in return to America that she looked every bit the part of the $8.5 million sale-topper at the Keeneland November breeding stock that followed her big win in the Breeders’ Cup. Running over the same track in which she dominated the Ladies’ Classic, Royal Delta absolutely overwhelmed the Fleur de Lis field while gathering her 6th win in 11 lifetime starts. The 4-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Empire Maker currently rates as the best female in the nation, and looks primed to turn the tables on her top competition on Saturday. She also has the advantage of having experience at running at the extended distance of the Delaware Handicap, having not only run in this year’s World Cup, but also being an impressive winner of the historic Alabama Stakes last year at Saratoga.

Will the pair be able to put on a show somewhat similar to last year’s epic edition? Or perhaps one of the others like Cash for Clunkers or Pachattack will be able to throw a monkey wrench into the works. Tune in racefans!


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Older Comments about Royal Delta or Awesome Maria in the Delaware Handicap?...

Its Tricky is #1 as of today not these two
should be a very interesting showdown between the two likely best dirt mares in usa.
Yes, Tim I believe at a 1 1/4, RD will be the one to beat, and most likely, the one who will win. Her rail post postion is a concern, though there are only 7 running. Awesome horses do awesome things when put to the test.
We will see come saturday.. I think RD is too much at a mile and a quarter
@TimSmith, Awesome Maria has already beat Royal Delta once. So she IS in the same league as Royal Delta.
This race was so awesome last year! I like Royal Delta, Patchattack, TizMiz Sue and a little Love and Pride. http://handicrapper.blogspot.com/
Royal Delta is going to take this
And btw...pre BL's retirement....here are the records for the two mares in 2011. HDG 5-4-1-0. BL 7-3-3-0. HDG had 2 grade one wins, one against males, and two other stakes wins. Blind Luck had one grade one and two more stakes. In 2011, their record vs each other was 2, one to BL and one to HDG, and if you would like to see what toying looks like, then just watch the replay of the Azeri, a race where HDG toyed w/ BL in ever sense of the word. Even at the point BL retired, HDG was the clear choice over her, in any division of year end awards.
I don't remember Awesome Maria ever trying 10f, but we know she can handle 9f just fine. Royal Delta will have no issue with the distance, that is a given, however Pletcher knows how to win this race, he has done so several times and i seriously doubt he will not have AM ready, unlike he did at Belmont. I think this will be a better race than some may think, since it would seem most are giving the race to Royal Delta, based soley on the 10f win she has. Do remember that was against 3 year olds, not her elders. Both are brilliant fillies both have pros and cons. I would not be crowning one or the other so soon.
2 points. 1) Royal Delta is in a completely different league to awesome maria IMO and 2) If you research eclipse winner for 2011 You will find that HDG is the HOY for that year.
If Awesome Maria is ready, she'll be an easy winner. Royal Delta's final times have never been noteworthy, and I think that will show in this race.
Glad to see they are showing the replay of last year when the real HOTY toyed with HDG before edging to the front for the victory, considering the slow splits in favor of HDG she still was not good enough to defeat Blind Luck who most likely would have been HOTY of not for her sudden retirement after something went amiss with Blind Luck.
No question Royal Delta will be better prepared for this show down, forget what happened in Feb. the real RD will show up on Sat and school will be in for AM. with Royal Delta the teacher $$$$$.
Both awesome horses but its hard to think any horse is better than Royal Delta
Royal Delta should win this one easy 1 1/4 miles is her distance.
At 10 F, Royal Delta
Royal Delta
A lot of interesting scenarios in this race, but once again the Delaware Handicap has got the stars. Mott v. Pletcher what could be better?
I'm going with Royal Delta on this one.
Royal Delta

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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