Mike Smith prefers Breeders’ Cup Distaff for Royal Delta

By J.J. Hysell

After Saturday’s Grade 1 Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park, the connections of two-time champion Royal Delta will have a decision to make: compete against males in the marquee event, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, or chase a historic three-peat in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (formerly named the Ladies’ Classic).

Royal Delta prior to the 2013 Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs.

Royal Delta prior to the 2013 Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs.

Royal Delta, a 5-year-old daughter of Empire Maker trained by Bill Mott and owned by Besilu Stables, would be the first filly or mare to collect three wins in the Distaff/Ladies’ Classic if she proves victorious on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita. Mott indicated recently that Royal Delta would be cross-entered in both races.

Jockey Mike Smith, the regular rider of Royal Delta, expressed his preference as to where Royal Delta should compete.

“I’d like to see her back in the Distaff this year to be honest,” Smith said. “She can always run next year (in the Classic). She could always try it then if that’s the plan so far. . . She’d be the only filly to have ever done it three times.”

Smith took over the mount on Royal Delta in the 2012 Fleur de Lis and has been aboard since.

“That was the deal whenever I picked up to ride her a year ago,” he said. “It was a long-term deal that I would ride her until she retires.”

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