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Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott (front row, third from left) will send out Royal Delta on Friday for a bid for a repeat victory in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic. (Photo Courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)

By Tom Pedulla, America’s Best Racing

ARCADIA, Calif. – Bill Mott searched for the right words to explain his emotions at the end of last season when he thought Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (G1) winner and champion 3-year-old filly Royal Delta was leaving his barn for the final time. He had also overseen the careers of her grandmother and her mother, and now it seemed as though an era was about to close since she was to be sold at auction.

“I had no expectations of getting her back. It was a sad day when I had to walk her to the van for the ride to Keeneland,” he said. “It was like going to a best friend’s funeral.”

As painful as that walk was, that is how elated Mott and his staff were when new owner Ben Leon purchased Royal Delta for $8.5 million, the third-highest price ever paid at Keeneland’s November breeding stock sale. He decided to continue to campaign her and returned her to the atmosphere in which she had done so well. It has continued to be a terrific fit.

The 4-year-old filly has won half of her six starts this year with two runner-up finishes for earnings of $929,251. That figure would grow dramatically if she repeats in the $2 million Ladies’ Classic on Friday.

She is doing so well following her 9 ½-length romp in her most recent start, the Beldame Invitational Stakes (G1) on Sept. 29 at Belmont Park, that she was pre-entered in Saturday’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) to allow Leon to keep open his options in case he wanted her to take on the boys. They ultimately decided that asking her to repeat in a fiercely competitive Ladies’ Classic was challenge enough.

“I felt running against the girls was probably the way to go,” Mott said. “I guess it’s sort of a conservative approach, but we have the intention of running Royal Delta next year and, if she is doing well, running in the Classic.

“She is going to be 5 years old and there is no reason, if you are going to reach out, not to do it at that time.”

The case can be made to go for the big money and the glory now, when it appears that Royal Delta is in outstanding form. When jockey Mike Smith prompted her in the Beldame, she responded with a breathtaking burst after calmly sitting just off the lead. But Mott, always one to take a long view, resisted that temptation.

“It is not like we are over there running for peanuts,” he said. “We are running in a very good race and, if we are lucky enough to win another one, it sews up another championship. That, to me, would be wonderful.”

Some believe this edition of the Ladies’ Classic is the strongest yet. Among the stalwarts in the field are 10-for-10 Awesome Feather and 6-for-6 My Miss Aurelia, both also champions. There also is Love and Pride, who turned back Royal Delta by half a length in the Personal Ensign Handicap (G1) at Saratoga Race Course in late August, although it is important to note that the runner-up was toting 10 more pounds.

Whatever the outcome will be, Mott is not looking to build in any excuses. He has a ready opportunity since Royal Delta suffered an injury to her right hind end that required stitches as she boarded her flight to the West Coast.

“The way I see it right now,” he said, “it is not going to slow her down or affect her ability to race at all.”

Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I) Nov. 2 7:30 PM EDT

Post

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

Odds

1

Grace Hall 

Javier Castellano

Anthony W. Dutrow 

10-1

2

My Miss Aurelia 

Corey Nakatani

Steven M. Asmussen 

4-1

3

Class Included 

Russell Baze

Jim Penney 

30-1

4

Questing

Irad Ortiz, Jr.

Kiaran P. McLaughlin 

4-1

5

Awesome Feather 

Jeffrey Sanchez

Chad C. Brown 

3-1

6

Royal Delta 

Mike Smith

William I. Mott 

9-5

7

Include Me Out 

Joe Talamo

Ronald W. Ellis 

15-1

8

Love and Pride 

John Velazquez

Todd A. Pletcher 

8-1

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