Besilu Stable's 5-year-old mare Royal Delta sealed a second Eclipse Award with a victory Nov. 3 in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (G1) at Santa Anita against a field that included fourth-place finisher Grace Hall.
The two will meet again Sunday when making their 2013 debuts in the $100,000 Sabin Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
Regular jockey Mike Smith will fly in from California for the mount on Royal Delta for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott in the 1 1/16 miles feature. Royal Delta finished second in last year's Sabin behind Awesome Maria when launching her 2012 campaign after being purchased for $8.5 million at the 2011 Keeneland November sale. Mott was retained as trainer.
The early season program is the same for Royal Delta as it was early last year, although her connections will hope for a better result. The daughter of Empire Maker was using the Sabin as a tune-up for a start against colts in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) in which she finished a disappointing ninth before returning to the U.S. for another title run.
“Anytime you run the first time (following layoff) I guess it can be termed a prep,” said Mott. “We want to see how she's going over here in the afternoon (in a race). We are planning on going to Dubai.”
Jockey Joel Rosario gets the call on Grace Hall for trainer Tony Dutrow. Also a daughter of Empire Maker, Grace Hall ranked among the nation's top 3-year-old fillies last year when she won the Gulfstream Oaks (G2), finished third in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and then captured the Delaware Oaks (G2) and Indiana Oaks (G2) before finishing nine lengths behind Royal Delta in the Ladies Classic.
“Everything has gone right on schedule for her training this winter at Palm Meadows,” said Dutrow. “She got back a little farther than I expected early in the Breeders' Cup and they kind of got away from her. I'm not sure she handled that track as much as the ones she was running on back east.”
Only three other fillies and mares will line-up against Royal Delta, including Team Block's 5-year-old All for Thee who enters off a game allowance win over the track going a mile on Jan. 12 in her first start since Keeneland in October. Jockey Jose Lezcano will be aboard the daughter of Elusive Quality for trainer Chris Block.
Tonys Investments 5-year-old My Pal Chrisy comes into the race after a pair of third-place finishes in restricted stakes at the meet in the Ocala Stakes on Dec. 30 and Sunshine Millions Distaff last out on Jan. 19.
A daughter of Alex's Pal, My Pal Chrisy has had most of her success at Calder the last few seasons with total earnings of $415,000, including a 7 ¼ lengths victory in the Elmer Heubeck Distaff in November. Jockey J.L. Castanon has the mount for owner-trainer Padarath Lutchman.
Completing the field is Frank Mancari and Pat Greco's 5-year-old mare One Last Dance with Javier Castellano picking up the mount for trainer Dale Romans.
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