Trained by Bill Mott, Royal Delta will face four others in the 1 1/16-mile event including multiple-stakes winner Awesome Maria and graded-stakes winner Groupie Doll.
The winner of the Alabama Stakes (G1) at Saratoga and the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) at Pimlico last year, Royal Delta will be making her first start since the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs, The Sabin will also mark her first race for Besilu Stables, which purchased the filly for $8.5 million at the 2011 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
“She’s doing really well,” Mott said. “She’s had a bit of a rest but her recent works have been good. She’s showed she is willing to go long, willing to work, and she looks good doing it.
“I think we’re at a slight disadvantage at a mile-and-a-sixteenth. It’s a short wire turning for home and I don’t think it plays into our filly’s style. I don’t think that’s her best race…she’s a bit of a stretch runner. I don’t think the conditions are the most ideal but we’re running in the race that’s available.”
Defending Sabin champ Awesome Maria, who also won Gulfstream’s Rampart (G3) last year, will be making her first start winning the Ogden Phipps Handicap (G1) in June. The 5-year-old daughter of Maria’s Mon was sidelined the remainder of the year after suffering a condylar fracture to her left foreleg during a workout last summer.
“She’s training exceptionally well,” said Todd Pletcher, well on his way to a ninth consecutive training title at Gulfstream. “We’ve been a little frustrated because she’s been ready to run for a little while. We tried to get her in an allowance race about a month ago which we didn’t get to go. We’ve kind of landed in a difficult situation running off a long layoff in a tough race, but she’s trained very well, she likes this track, so we’re optimistic. She’s a top class filly at a mile-and-a-sixteenth and so we’ll hope for the best.”
Although most of the attention in the Sabin will focus on the two favorites, Fred and William ‘Buff’ Bradley’s 5-year-old Kentucky homebred Groupie Doll comes into the race after two strong performances over the track at the meet and jockey Calvin Borel flying in for the mount.
A daughter of Bowman’s Band, Groupie Doll was a proven stakes performer last year winning the Gardenia Stakes (G3) at Ellis Park and finishing second in the Delaware Oaks (G2), Charles Town Oaks and Raven Run Stakes (G2) at Keeneland. She came back on Dec. 22 for a wire-to-wire allowance score against fillies and mares and finished a game second to the top colt Boys At Tosconova on Jan. 27 going a mile.
“She’s worked as good here Saturday morning (1:01 2/5) as she has since she got here,” said Buff Bradley, who co-owns and bred the mare with his father. “We’ve been pointing for the race for quite some time, although not knowing it would come up this tough. She’s very fast and we look forward to the race.”
Completing the field for the Sabin are Jerry Jamgotchian’s Ghostly Darkness, Rajiv Maragh; and Farnsworth Stable’s Canadian Mistress, Elvis Trujillo.