Monday, October 01, 2012

A royally bad move

What a long year it’s been. Back in the early part of the year, Bill Mott prepped his stellar filly Royal Delta for a trip to Dubai to take on the boys at approximately ten furlongs. She’d finish seventh after a troubled trip, which made Mott say to the Blood-Horse, “I’d do it all over again given the same set of circumstances.”

Now he’s got his chance. Royal Delta is too good for fillies and mares and she’s in the best shape of her life and she showed it Saturday. Her Beldame triumph was positively laughable, reminiscent of Rachel Alexandra’s Mother Goose win. Mike Smith moved early and blew right past It’s Tricky and opened up.

What’s upsetting is that the four and a half fans of this sport won’t see her run against the boys again this year. Mott and owner Benjamin Leon want to defend her Ladies Classic title and go for the Big One next year. That’s right. Next year. We all know how durable these horses are.

If there were a horseman who could do it I’d bet on Mott and maybe John Sherriffs. Mott's skilled and patient enough to let the horses to the talking. Come to think of it, Mott must have a voodoo-like effect over his owners. How else can he get performances out of To Honor and Serve that ignite and baffle and still keep the horses in his barn? Every time he gets us off THAS, the horse blows up.

Who knows what Royal Delta's race figs are, but they must match up squarely with the boys.

It makes you wonder the past few years why fillies have had such success against the boys. Going back to 2008, Eight Belles ran a monster Kentucky Derby before she suffered that catastrophic freak gallop out. But I really think Jess Jackson is responsible for fast fillies taking on the boys. He made it go viral.

Since 2009, we saw Rachel beat the boys three times, Zenyatta beat them once and nearly again and even Havre de Grace defeated eventual Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Flat Out. Is it because the males aren’t as good? Maybe. Is it because these fillies were big? Well, yeah, they do need to match up a bit on size, but I bet if that little squirt Proud Spell ran against the boys she could’ve held her own. I really think that the special fillies were always as fast as the boys, but trainers and owners just kept them in their class. Maybe they got spooked by Ruffian’s breakdown.

There was Genuine Risk and Serena’s Song, but I bet there were many more that could’ve run against the boys.

There’s the money reason, which, in effect, may be the only reason. Had Rachel Alexandra run in the Black-Eyed Susan she would have run for $300,000. The Preakness gave her a shot at a $1 million-race. Zenyatta, $2 million vs. $5 million. Havre de Grace in the Woodward vs. say, the Personal Ensign? $300,000 (it’s $600,000 now, post VLT) vs. $750,000.

I often wonder what made Rachel Alexandra as captivating as she was. When Havre de Grace ran in the Woodward nobody cared. Zenyatta had the appeal, and my lord, if she ran on the east coast she would’ve been a phenom on the level of Kate Middleton. She brought it herself with her dancing and late-charging style. But I think it ultimately goes back to Jackson’s media and PR savvy. That’s something Royal Delta’s connections lack, for better or worse. She’s one of the best 14 horses in the world and she won’t run against them.

I’d be shocked and awed if she runs in the Breeders’ Cup Classic 13 months from now.

Written by Brendan O'Meara

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BallHype: hype it up!

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