With her two consecutive Breeders Cup Ladies Classic wins and Eclipse Awards, Royal Delta is the undisputed reigning queen of American thoroughbred racing.
On Sunday, she took a big first step toward keeping those titles, and maybe more.
Royal Delta ran a race that was almost like a workout and still beat All for Thee by five lengths in the $100,000 Sabin Stakes (Grade 3), at 1 1/16 miles on dirt.
Trainer Bill Mott and owner Benjamin Leon Jr., said they will proceed with their plan to take Royal Delta to the United Arab Emirate of Dubai for a race with a $10 million purse — the Dubai World Cup on March 30.
“She ran like we expected, and we are off to a good start for the year,” Leon said.
He is the founder and chairman of Leon Medical Centers, which owns and operates seven medical centers in Miami-Dade County.
Leon said his goal for Royal Delta this year “is to get back to the Breeders’ Cup.” That could be for the Ladies Classic, or for the Classic, where she would face males.
On Sunday, she was the 2-5 favorite in a five-horse field, and was ridden by her regular jockey Mike Smith. The start was not smooth.
“Mike said she was a bit uneasy in the gate,” Mott said.
Royal Delta then hopped coming out of the gate. But she recovered and led All for Thee by a length after a half-mile in 47.44 seconds.
Royal Delta then pulled away and won in a solid time of 1:43.41, while not being pushed by Smith.
The win was Royal Delta’s 10th in 16 career starts.
Royal Delta and Leon’s other horses race under the name Besilu Stables, which he and his family own in Ocala.
Besilu bought Royal Delta for $8.5 million in November 2011 at an auction in Lexington, Ky. She was sold in a dispersal of horses following the death of her owner, Prince Saud bin Khaled of Saudi Arabia.
Last year, Royal Delta had four wins and two second-place finishes in seven starts.
Her other race was a ninth-place finish in the Dubai World Cup, where Mott said “she did not have a smooth trip” in the 13-horse field.
“She is bigger and more mature this year, and is familiar with the surroundings, Leon said about the upcoming race.
Besilu Stables is the corporate sponsor for the Fountain of Youth (Grade 2) at Gulfstream on Saturday, and the Florida Derby on March 30 at Gulfstream.
Hialeah Ends Season
Hialeah Park ended its 2012-13 quarterhorse season Sunday with Habits Secret winning the $100,000 South Florida Quarter Horse Derby for 3 year olds.
Hialeah’s simulcast room will remain open Wednesday through Sunday until April 5. It will televise and take bets on races at Gulfstream Park and about a dozen other thoroughbred tracks.