BREEDERS' CUP LADIES' CLASSIC | PURSE: $2 MILLION | 3-YEAR-OLD AND UP | GRADE 1 | 1 1/8 MILES
Besilu Stables' Royal Delta took control after an early scramble for the lead and never looked back en route to a strong victory in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic at Santa Anita Park on Friday.
Trained by Bill Mott and ridden by Mike Smith, Royal Delta won the Ladies' Classic for the second straight year and probably sealed the championship for older female this year. The 4-year-old Empire Maker filly was bred in Kentucky by Palides Investments and is the champion 3-year-old filly of 2011.
Royal Delta, who paid $5.40 to win, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.80 on a fast track. My Miss Aurelia, who sat behind the winner, rallied for second, while Include Me Out made a strong run into the stretch but flattened a bit to finish third.
Questing dropped well back at the start and was eased on the backstretch while struggling over the firm ground with no apparent injury. Meanwhile, Awesome Feather, 10 for 10 in races entering the Ladies' Classic, tasted defeat for the first time.
Royal Delta, Love and Pride, and Include Me Out all went for the lead, but Royal Delta found the rail and led through an opening quarter-mile in 22.69 seconds. She nursed a one-length lead over Love and Pride to her outside while Include Me Out stalked in third and My Miss Aurelia in fourth after a half-mile in a quick 45.81 seconds.
Awesome Feather, in fifth on the outside, never kicked in, leaving the race to the top four after six furlongs in 1:09.80. Royal Delta opened up by a 1 1/2 lengths at the top of the stretch as My Miss Aurelia, who also got an inside trip, began to close.
Include Me Out made a nice bid three-wide into the stretch and appeared to have run, but the track wasn't kind to horses well off the rail. Royal Delta, under urging by Smith, maintained her lead to win by 1 1/2 lengths over My Miss Aurelia, who had 1 1/4 lengths over Include Me Out.
Grace Hall, seventh early, rallied for fourth, followed by Love and Pride, Awesome Feather and Class Included.
Questing was taken from the track in an equine ambulance and was to be examined.
"There were no obvious abnormalities. In other words she had no injury to her limbs upon veterinary inspection," said Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, one of the on-call veterinarians at Breeders' Cup. "She'll be taken back to Irvine, and the regular treating veterinarian will examine her."
Royal Delta finished second in the Grade 3 Sabin Stakes and ninth in Dubai World Cup to start her season. After a break she returned to win the Fleur De Lis Handicap and Delaware Handicap.
She then finished a close second behind Love and Pride in the Personal Ensign Stakes before winning the Beldame Invitational in her race before the Breeders' Cup.
"Spectacular," Mott said of the Ladies' Classic effort. "She broke sharply and was out on the lead and just ran the race that way. She's a talented mare to be able to run well and win no matter how the race develops.
"I was a little concerned when they were throwing up those fractions, but she kept going and ran them off their feet."
"I really had a lot of confidence in her," said Smith, who now tops the jockeys' list with 16 Breeders' Cup victories. "She trains the way that she ran. She's just amazing."
Corey Nakatani, who rode My Miss Aurelia, said the 3-year-old filly, who also lost for the first time in her seventh start, "ran a hell of a race. I was in good position the whole way. She gave me everything, and I thought I had a shot there for a while."
Joe Talamo, who rode Include Me Out, said he had to "wait a little bit with her" on the far turn, but otherwise had a fair trip. He said the filly showed some kick at the five-sixteenths pole but couldn't gain on Royal Delta.
Royal Delta now has earned $3,703,851 in 15 starts. She has nine wins, three seconds and a third.