Royal Delta targets Personal Ensign
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.
Trainer Bill Mott was understandably in a jovial mood Sunday morning, roughly 16 hours after Royal Delta dominated Saturday’s Grade 1 Delaware Handicap by 10 3/4 lengths.
Royal Delta earned a 104 Beyer Speed Figure for her 10 3/4-length victory in Saturday's Grade 1 Delaware Handicap.
The win ended a two-race losing streak for the dual champion mare and was reminiscent of the brilliance she had displayed previously in her career.
“It was gratifying, but it was also exciting to watch her run,” Mott said outside his Saratoga barn. “You’re watching her, and you’re looking back and seeing what’s going on behind her. It just looked like two different races.”
Royal Delta returned to Saratoga at about 2 a.m. Sunday from Delaware. She will point to the Grade 1 Personal Ensign here Aug. 25.
Royal Delta won the Delaware Handicap – her second straight victory in that race – without the use of the anti-bleeder medication Lasix. In all of her previous starts in the United States, Royal Delta had raced on Lasix. She was not permitted to race on it in Dubai, where she competed in the World Cup in each of the past two years.
“We wanted to rekindle some controversy over the Lasix issue,” Mott joked Sunday. “Nobody’s been talking about it. I thought it would make for some good conversation.”
When he eventually turned serious, Mott said he felt Lasix negatively affected Royal Delta at Churchill Downs when she ran second in the Fleur de Lis Handicap on June 15.
“I think the Lasix had an adverse effect on her at Churchill last time a little bit, and probably the heat and humidity made it worse,” Mott said. “She was much better without it yesterday.”
Mott said Royal Delta probably never needed Lasix to begin with and probably won’t run on it for the remainder of the year.
In the Delaware Handicap, Royal Delta went right to the front under Mike Smith, and after fractions of 24.19 seconds and 47.50 for the half-mile, the race was essentially over. Royal Delta, who won last year’s Del Cap by a neck over Tiz Miz Sue, earned a 104 Beyer Speed Figure for Saturday’s performance.
Royal Delta improved her record to 11-4-1 from 17 starters and pushed her career earnings to $4.2 million. She has won nine stakes, including five Grade 1 races.
When Royal Delta runs in the Personal Ensign, one of her rivals will be Authenticity, who won Saturday’s Grade 3 Shuvee Handicap by a length for trainer Todd Pletcher and Satish Sanan’s Padua Stable. Last year, the Pletcher-trained Love and Pride upset Royal Delta in the Personal Ensign.
Referring to Royal Delta’s performance in Saturday’s Delaware Handicap, Pletcher said, “Obviously, if the Royal Delta who ran yesterday shows up in the Personal Ensign, we’re all running for second, but we’ll give it a try anyway.”
Authenticity earned a 96 Beyer for the Shuvee.
The biggest disappointment in the Shuvee was Eblouissante, the half-sister to champion Zenyatta, who finished last. Eblouissante acted up in the gate and needed to be backed out before being reloaded.
On Sunday, trainer John Shirreffs said Eblouissante cracked a tooth and had some cuts on her stifles from hitting herself in the gate. Shirreffs gave praise to the assistant starter for “preventing her from getting underneath the gate, which would have been tragic.”