The Breeders’ Cup will begin its two-day weekend on Friday with Royal Delta attempting to become the first three-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and Street Girl seeking a huge upset in the $2 million race.
Both horses are owned by South Floridians.
Benjamin Leon Jr., the chairman of Leon Medical Centers in Miami, owns the 5-year-old Royal Delta and races her for his Besilu Stables.
Street Girl is trained by Manny Azpurua, who stables his horses at Gulfstream Park. She is owned by Rontos Racing Stable, headed by Ronald Sanchez, who lives in Sunny Isles Beach.
The Distaff (Grade 1) is 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., with just five other horses taking on two-time defending winner Royal Delta.
“It is a small but elite field,” said Bill Mott, Royal Delta’s trainer.
One elite horse is Princess of Sylmar, a 3-year-old star who beat Royal Delta by two lengths in the Beldame (Grade I) at 1 1/8 miles at Belmont Park on Sept. 21.
Mott has said several times that he expects Royal Delta will run a better race in the Distaff.
She has been impressive in training in recent weeks.
Royal Delta won the Distaff last year at Santa Anita and in 2011 at Churchill Downs, and also won an Eclipse Award each year.
She has 12 wins and five second-place finishes in 21 starts.
Bayakoa, in 1989 and 1990, is the only other horse with two wins in the Distaff, which has been run annually since 1984.
“Royal Delta is easily one of best racing mares in the history of the sport,” said Toby Callet, a South Florida-based racing analyst who conducts seminars at several tracks.
Street Girl, a 3-year-old, is the only Distaff entrant that has not won a graded stakes.
Azpurua said he decided to take Street Girl to the Breeders’ Cup after she overcame a stumble at the start and finished third in the Cotillion Stakes (Grade I) on Sept. 21. That 1 1/16 mile race was at Parx Racing in Philadelphia.
“This filly keeps getting better, so we are taking a chance,” said the 84-year-old Azpurua, who has about 4,000 trainer wins in a 65-year career in Venezuela and the United States.
Abel Castillo, who rode Street Girl in Philadelphia, has the mount Friday.
Many handicappers expect a fast pace, which could help the late-running Street Girl’s chances to finish as high as third or fourth.
Which horse wins could depend on whether Royal Delta can fend off several early challengers and then hold off a late run by Princess of Sylmar.
Royal Delta will have regular jockey Mike Smith.
Princess of Sylmar is trained by Todd Pletcher and will have regular jockey Javier Castellano.
She has won her past four races, all in Grade 1 stakes.
Royal Delta usually seeks the early lead.
Callet expects that on Friday she will face an early challenge from Beholder, a 3-year-old with three Grade 1 stakes wins at Santa Anita.
Authenticity and Close Hatches probably will stalk the leaders, with Princess of Sylmar and Street Girl trailing in the early stages.
Authenticity has two wins and four second-place finishes in graded stakes this year. Close Hatches won the Cotillion, in which street Girl finished third.
Scheduled post time for the Distaff is 7:35 p.m. It will be part of the NBC Sports cable channel’s live telecast from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. of Friday’s five Breeders’ Cup races.