For the connections of Royal Delta the difference between winning the $2 million Ladies Classic and the $5 million Breeder’s Cup Classic is a $1.8 million difference. However for the interest for the Breeders’ Cup and horse racing in general, it would be in the best interest to keep her in the Ladies Classic, which will take place at Santa Anita on Friday, November 02. But really who would blame the connections for the defection to the more lucrative race? After all, this year’s Classic has not shaped up to be a strong field of world beaters. The favorite in the race is Game on Dude, who just lost last year’s Classic to a very mediocre Drosselmeyer.
Conversely, the Ladies Classic is shaping up to be the most intriguing race of the two day meet. The race has six legitimate contenders for win honors. That is if all the contenders stay in the race. For now the horse to beat is the aforementioned defending champ Royal Delta, who overcame a dull midyear lull with an impressive 9 length victory in the Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park. Couple that victory with a sharp workout before she ships out to California, and Royal Delta will be a strong contender in which ever race she runs in. In all likelihood that race will be the Ladies Classic, as the pre entry into the Classic in the words of her owner is to “keep their options open.”
The unknown in the race will be how the pace sets up; Love and Pride and Questing are expected to go out early. Love and Pride who beat Royal Delta in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga two races back, is a pure front running type who followed that race with a wire to wire win in the G1 Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita in late September.
In her last race, Questing had the lead all to herself with jockey Jr. Ortiz slowing the pace down to :50 for the half. A virtual crawl for a filly who won the 1 mile ¼ Alabama Stakes, going :23, and :46. Perhaps the intentional pace slow down worked against Questing, as some horses who need to run on the front end have to stay busy the whole race or else they get lulled to sleep.
The horse that beat Questing that day at Parx was My Miss Aurelia, one of two undefeated Breeders Cup Champions running in the Ladies Classic. My Miss Aurelia won last year’s Juvenile Fillies, then was laid off until August, appearing in an overnight stakes at Belmont Park. After breaking bad from the gate, the three year old filly out of the sire Smart Strike showed her resiliency in winning by three lengths.
The other horse entered not to miss a post race photo opt. is Awesome Feather; the Florida bred who also came off a long layoff to win at Belmont Park. However, in this race Awesome Feather put on an impressive display of her abilities. In a dazzling time of 1:33 and 2/5ths Awesome Feather won by 11 and a quarter lengths, earning an impressive 108 Beyer in the process.
Two dark horses that may slip between the cracks and go off at more than generous odds are Include Me Out, and Grace Hall. Both are 8-1 in the pre-entry odds; although there is a very good chance that at least one of these fillies odds will drift up past the 10-1 mark.
For those handicappers that play the ‘horse for the course’ angle, Include Me Out is the play. She has won three races at Santa Anita, one of which was a Grade 1 at the same mile and eighth distance of this race. In her last race she ran a misleading third, Love and Pride wired the field that day; however the track was playing favorably to front runners.
After getting second in to My Miss Aurelia last year in the Breeders Cup, Grace Hall has been a bit of a disappointment this year, despite not having done anything wrong. She’s earned over 700k in earnings this year and has one three stakes races, the problem is that they were all GII races. This wouldn’t be so bad except that in her two GI attempts, she threw in two clunkers while going off as the favorite. On the upside she has two Beyers of 103 and 105 in two of her last three races.
As for Royal Delta and pace set ups, a versitle horse who can sit right off the lead, she does not need a fast pace to run in, nor does she need to slow the race down in order to steal it. If she is in form she can win from anywhere on the track.