Having never won the Beldame Invitational at Belmont Park, trainer Bill Mott will send Royal Delta out to get the deed done. But the filly may be facing her rival, It's Tricky.
Trainer Mott looks to fill out CV with Royal Delta's help at Belmont
Bill Mott has never won the Beldame Invitational at Belmont Park and although he would love Royal Delta to win the $US400,000 (Dh1.47 million) race on Saturday, at Elmont, New York, the Dubai World Cup-winning trainer probably will not be overly concerned is she fails.
The Beldame may well be a Group 1 race, but three of Mott's fillies have graduated from a defeat in the nine-furlong contest to win at the Breeders' Cup.
Royal Delta did so last season, having battled through the mud only to be denied by Havre De Grace.
The Empire Maker filly went on to scoop the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic and was crowned the champion three-year-old filly.
It was a similar scenario two seasons ago when Unrivaled Belle found Life At Ten too good at Belmont before scoring at Churchill Downs a month later.
Ajina won the Breeders' Cup Distaff in 1997 after a similar preparation.
"I'd very much like to get the race on my resume, as well as hers, as I've never won it," the Hall of Fame handler said. "Do I hope I win it? Yes, I'd love to, but if I'm second then maybe it is something to be said of what is to come."
Royal Delta was last seen when trying to give 10lbs to Love And Pride at Saratoga last month in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Invitational. Mike Smith, who will be in the saddle again on Saturday, may have had his mount placed perfectly up front, but he was three horses off the rail and came dreadfully wide as the field hit the straight.
Mott has a long-standing association with Smith, who rode Ajina, and he was delicate in his summation of Smith's ride that day.
"I wasn't overly critical of the ride, maybe some were," Mott told a teleconference. "I thought he was in position to win the race. Knowing the filly better now he might make a little adjustment in the future. I don't think it was what he would refer to as a 'horrible ride'.
"I sure wouldn't say that."
Thursday's declarations are likely to reveal that among a small field will lie Royal Delta's enduring rival, It's Tricky, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin.
The word rival may be slightly misleading, as Royal Delta has beaten the Godolphin filly three times, although last time out, in the Personal Ensign, there were mitigating circumstances.
It's Tricky scraped the dirt with her nose as she emerged from the starting gate having stumbled badly under Eddie Castro.
The young Panamanian rider kept his cool, however, and scraped the rail to deliver a challenge two furlongs from home.
The effort to be in contention beat her but It's Tricky, who likes to race prominently, will have a lot more in her favour this time.
"Royal Delta is a very tough mare," Mott said.
"She has the best appetite in the barn and nothing eats more. She always seems aggressive, ready to train, and has a tough constitution. It's Tricky will have a lot more speed this time and we'll have to run her down."
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