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Royal Delta Fended off My Miss Aurelia to win the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic for the second straight year. (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)

By Tom Pedulla, America’s Best Racing

ARCADIA, Calif. – The sun-splashed afternoon had produced one surprise after another through the first five Breeders’ Cup races on Friday. Then class showed in the $2 million Ladies’ Classic (G1).

Royal Delta flashed speed early and dug deep late to hand My Miss Aurelia her first defeat in seven starts when she fended her off by 1 ½ lengths. Include Me Out ran third. She completed the mile and an eighth in 1:48.80.

“Her best races are when you let her do her thing and let her get into her stride,” said jockey Mike Smith of his surprising strategy against a field loaded with early speed. Smith earned his 16th Breeders’ Cup win to move ahead of Jerry Bailey for the all-time lead.

Royal Delta justified the confidence owner Ben Leon showed last November when he purchased her for $8.5 million, the third-highest price ever paid at the Keeneland November sale and the highest for a filly in training, following her victory in the 2011 Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs. She was made available as part of the dispersal of holdings of the late Prince Saud bin Khaled.

Leon described his decision to spend so big on the 4-year-old daughter of Empire Maker as a “calculated risk” that he did not appear to consider all that risky.

“If you buy a filly based on confirmation, you buy her,” he said. “If you buy a filly based on racing ability, after the way she raced today, you definitely buy her. If you buy a filly as a broodmare, you buy her.”

In the end, Leon believes it was $8.5 million well spent.

“I think long term she will prove she might be the cheapest horse I will ever buy.”

He noted that he intends to continue to run her next year with the Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) as his first major target.

The front-running effort of Royal Delta gives Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott the opportunity to at least dare to dream about another extraordinary accomplishment. Last year, he joined John Shirreffs (2009) as the only trainers to sweep the Ladies’ Classic and the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) when longshot Drosselmeyer delivered in the $5 million Classic. This time, he will have three shots in the Classic with Ron the Greek, Flat Out and To Honor and Serve.

“We’ve got three good chances,” Mott said. “We are not counting our chickens before they hatch, but we have three horses who are doing well and they all have a chance.

“They’re all doing good and we can’t stop now. We’ve got to push for tomorrow and not look back.”



Photo Courtesy of Horsephotos

In other Breeders’ Cup races (For complete recaps, click the race name):

$500,000 Juvenile Sprint: Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, 77, earned his 19th Breeders’ Cup victory when Hightail, the longest shot at 15-1 in a five-horse field that was the shortest in Breeders’ Cup history, ran down heavily favored Merit Man to win by a nose.  Lukas owns 10 more wins than his nearest rivals, Mott and Shug McGaughey. “At my age, it’s significant. I don’t know how many more there are, but I always thought we could get one more,” Lukas said.



Courtesy of Horsephotos.com

$500,000 Marathon: Calidoscopio, a 9-year-old from Argentina who has aged like the finest of wines, launched a prolonged rally and kicked away to a 4 ¼-length margin against Atigun. “They told me to detach myself from the field at the beginning, that he wouldn’t be in it at all,” said winning rider Aaron Gryder. “They said, ‘You can close your eyes for the first mile, then pick them up.’ ” And, despite being sent off at 17-1, that is exactly what happened.



Photo Courtesy of Horsephotos.com

$1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf: French-bred Flotilla (11-1) provided veteran rider Christophe Lemaire with his first Breeders’ Cup victory. “I’m very glad to win a race like that. It was something that was missing in my career,” Lemaire said. Flotilla was a length and a quarter better than Watsdachances.



Photo courtesy of Horsephotos.com

$2 million Juvenile Fillies: Beholder went to the lead and stayed there, holding off heavily favored Executiveprivilege by one length under an expertly measured ride by Garrett Gomez. Executiveprivilege had gone unbeaten through her first five starts. Gomez credited the handling of trainer Richard Mandella. “Richard did a tremendous job with her, teaching her how to relax and be a little more patient,” Gomez said.



Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire

$2 million Filly and Mare Turf: Zagora reached the winner’s circle for the fifth time in eight starts this season for trainer Chad Brown. She edged Marketing Mix by three-quarters of a length. The Fugue, sent off as the top choice, was bottled up inside for much of the 1 ¼-mile contest and was forced to settle for third. “She’s been a model of consistency since she came into my barn,” Brown said of Zagora. “She’s a very reliable horse in the mornings and afternoons.”



Photo courtesy of Horsephotos.com

To view an Equibase chart from any of the races on the Breeders’ Cup card on Friday, click here.



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