She may not be horse racing's new Zenyatta, but Royal Delta ran a stirring race to win the $2 million Ladies Classic for the second year in a row.
The race was one of the few formful things to happen Friday at Santa Anita on the first of two days of Breeders' Cup races. The announced crowd of 34,619 watched as foreign horses (two French bred and one Argentine) won half of the day's six races. There are nine races today.
Royal Delta ran an unusual race — from the front. She normally rallies from behind. It was trainer Bill Mott's ninth Breeders' Cup win and fifth in the Ladies Classic.
Royal Delta joins Bayakoa as the only two-time winner of the race.
Mike Smith also set a record aboard Royal Delta with his 16th Breeders' win, passing Jerry Bailey as the all-time winingest jockey.
Royal Delta had a difficult time getting to Southern California, leaving New York just before Hurrican Sandy hit. Mott said she was slightly scraped up backing into the stall before the plane trip but it proved not to be a problem.
Royal Delta will be brought back as a 5-year-old and retired after next season.
"She was lightly raced as a 2-year-old and as a 3-year-old," Mott said. "She was bred to get better as she gets older. She's got to remain healthy and she may be even better."
Royal Delta's next race will likely be in the Dubai World Cup.
In the day's other marquee race, Beholder ran a smart race on the rail and held off favorite Executiveprivilege in the $2 million Juvenille Fillies race. Executiveprivilege, trained by Bob Baffert, was the prohibitive favorite but she lagged down the stretch losing by a length.
Afterward, owner Wayne Hughes joked about the motivation to run his horse.
"My wife explained to me that we owed a lot of money and the 10 percent of the $500,000 (that the horse could have won in another race), so we had to go for the gold," Hughes said.
Winning trainer Richard Mandella explained the thinking behind running the horse in a 1 1/16 mile race.
"When she came from Del Mar she had just won her third race in the Debutante," Mandella said. "She is excitable and you would probably consider her a sprinter stretching out, not a two-turn horse getting a prep race sprinting."
The day started as a tribute to age as legendary trainer Wayne Lukas, 77, won his 19th Breeders' race. He became the oldest trainer to ever win one of these races. His 2-year-old colt Hightail rallied in the stretch to catch favorite Merit Man in the 6-furlong Juvenile Sprint.
The race was hurt by the scratch of Super Ninety Nine when he got too nervous in the barn and suffered some cuts. South Floyd was a late scratch and just five horses went to post.
In the next race, Calidoscopio, an Argentine horse, won the 1 3/4-mile Marathon. It was the 10th win in 40 starts for the 9-year-old horse making him the oldest horse to ever win a Breeders' Cup race.
The French horse Flotilla was the winner of the Juvenille Fillies Turf, rallying from ninth to beat the Irish-bred Watsdachances by 1 1/4 lengths. The favorite, Sky Lantern, couldn't find racing room down the stretch and finished eighth.
Zagora, also French-bred, won the 1 1/4 mile Filly and Mare Turf race. A crowded field down the stretch deprived Fugue from a late rally.
It appeared as if no horses were injured in Friday's racing. Questing, running in the ladies classic, was eased on the backstretch and vanned off the track. Veterinarians could find nothing wrong with the horse.
The highlight of the second day of racing today is the $5 million Classic at the traditional distance of 1 1/4 miles.
Game On Dude, trained by Baffert, is expected to be the favorite. He finished second last year when Drosselmeyer charged past him deep in the stretch. Baffert has never won the $5 million race but stands a good chance as Game On Dude is five for five at his home track of Santa Anita.
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