Talent never in doubt, Royal Delta shows nerve in Black-Eyed Susan win

Filly sits back in pack before dashing through gap to easy win

May 20, 2011|By Kevin Van Valkenburg, The Baltimore Sun

Trainer Bill Mott didn't have any doubts about the talent possessed by filly Royal Delta heading into Friday's 87th running of the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes. But her inexperience and temperament gave him plenty of reason for concern.

The Black-Eyed Susan was only the fourth start of her career, and it had already been a bit of an adventure. She was coming off a dominant win at the Keeneland Polytrack, but just two months ago she finished ninth in a 10-horse race at Tampa Downs. Was she a dirt horse? A synthetic horse? Could she handle a big race?

At Pimlico Race Course, however, she may have put those questions to rest, maybe even for good. Royal Delta cruised early, sitting in the middle of the pack, then charged home with impressive speed to easily win Maryland's $250,000 race for 3-year-old fillies in front of 27,966.

It was her first career stakes victory, and it came by 2 1/2 lengths in the 1 1/8 mile race. Buster's Ready finished in second, and Hot Summer was a distant third.

"The talent isn't a question," Mott said. "We're pretty high on her. It was just good to see her do it on the main track, on the dirt. It was just a question of whether she would be able to handle this surface as well as she did [the polytrack]."

Jockey Jose Lezcano let Royal Delta sit back early in the race while Wyomia and Buster's Ready held the early lead. But at the three-quarter pole, Lezcano spotted an opening to the inside, and he barely even had to tell the horse to run. He just nudged her in the right direction, and she flew past Buster's Ready.

"She broke good and relaxed," Lezcano said. "When I asked her, she gave me that run I needed to go. I knew I had plenty of horse."

Mott thought about running Royal Delta in the prestigious Kentucky Oaks two weeks ago, but decided instead to point her toward the Black-Eyed Susan, and it turned out to be a wise decision. Although she clearly didn't run well in her race at Tampa Downs, her first race of the season, there were plenty of reasons to point to as to why it happened. She broke poorly and got bumped hard going into the first turn. She felt startled and tried to take off, and Lezcano had to hold her back. When he did that, his saddle slipped out of position.

"It was just a real messy trip, which can happen with a great horse," Mott said.

The Black-Eyed Susan, however, was smooth running.

"She tends to jump out of the gate and grab on to the [bit] too much," Mott said. "That's just her inexperience. But she seemed very relaxed today. She showed today that she's comfortable running in a group of horses. It's never that comfortable running up on someone's heels, but today she waited until it was the right time to go."

Todd Pletcher, who trains Buster's Ready, said he felt like his horse simply got outrun.

"I thought our filly ran very well," Pletcher said. "She was the second-best on the day, but tried hard. She's a very steady, grinding-type filly and she kept trying right to the end. That other filly got a bit of a jump on her at the top of the stretch."

Mott said he was likely to run Royal Delta next in the Mother Goose at Belmont Park in June.

"We thought she was a nice filly early on, but soon realized she was a little better than we thought," Mott said. "She just keeps improving."

kevinvanvalkenburg@baltsun.com

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