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HORSE RACING

Royal Delta wins Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic

The 3-year-old Kentucky horse rallies at the top of the stretch to take the most prestigious of the six races on the first day of the Breeders' Cup.

November 04, 2011|By Lance Pugmire
  • Jockey Jose Lezcano rides Royal Delta to victory in the Ladies' Classic at the Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs on Friday.
Jockey Jose Lezcano rides Royal Delta to victory in the Ladies' Classic… (Mark Cornelison / MCT )

Reporting from Louisville, Ky. — Royal Delta might never race again. If that's the case, she created a lasting legacy Friday.

The 3-year-old Kentucky horse won the most prestigious of the day's six Breeders' Cup races at Churchill Downs, claiming the $2-million Ladies' Classic by rallying from third place at the top of the stretch to pass favorites Plum Pretty and runner-up It's Tricky with 40,677 in attendance.

Victory was bittersweet, with Royal Delta set to be part of next week's Keeneland's November breeding stock sale, which will include the dispersal of horses owned by Saudi Arabia's Prince Saud bin Khaled. He died in California this year.

The uncertainty about the mare's future — either motherhood or more racing — brought tears to Royal Delta's exiting owners, Ron Wallace and the prince's former partner, Karen Woods.

Royal Delta's trainer, Bill Mott, poised for more drama Saturday with two horses entered in the $5-million Classic, said, "I see no reason not to race her again. I'll be happy to keep training her."

A Mott horse also won the Ladies' Classic last year, and Royal Delta is strongly positioned to win the Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old filly.

Jockey John Velazquez will also be looking to top a strong showing. Velazquez had two winners Friday and has seven more rides in Saturday's nine races, including the mount atop Uncle Mo, the favorite in the Classic.

Velazquez collected the 10th and 11th Breeders' Cup triumphs of his career by riding Stephanie's Kitten to victory Friday in the $1-million Juvenile Fillies Turf and producing a stirring late turf run with longshot Perfect Shirl to win the $2-million Filly and Mare Turf.

Perfect Shirl, at 27-1, rallied past favorites Stacelina and Nahrain and won by ¾ of a length, paying $57.60 on a $2 bet.

"We wanted to save something for the finish," Velazquez said. "It worked out just like we'd hoped."

That wasn't the case for reality television star Rob Dyrdek of MTV's "Ridiculousness" and "Fantasy Factory."

In the minutes before the gates opened for Dyrdek's co-owned horse Weemissfrankie and 13 others in the $2-million Juvenile Fillies, Dyrdek was asked if he was nervous.

"Indeed I am," Dyrdek said. "I look at myself like, 'How can I worry about this with the things I do?' But I'm so nervous, I might as well go jockey the horse myself."

Dyrdek, who owns the filly named after late Hollywood producer Frank Alesia with his friend from Upland, Joe Ciaglia, and Mike Mellen, said he co-owns 11 horses.

"I'm in the game," Dyrdek said. "This is an incredible story. It feels so destined."

Weemissfrankie set up for a late run behind favored My Miss Aurelia with Corey Nakatani aboard.

My Miss Aurelia couldn't be caught, however, beating Grace Hall by three lengths and third-place Weemissfrankie by nine.

"I'm certainly not OK with that," Dyrdek said. "But it's horse racing, man."

First-time Breeders' Cup jockey Juan Leyva pulled an upset aboard 20-1 shot Musical Romance in the $1-million Filly and Mare Sprint, as big favorite Turbulent Descent was "squeezed hard" at the gate.

Musical Romance paid $42.40, winning by 1¼ lengths.

Secret Circle, the first of trainer Bob Baffert's nine entrants, started the Breeders' Cup-opening Juvenile Sprint by surging to the lead at the top of the stretch and holding off a late, game challenge by Garrett Gomez on Shumoos to win the six-furlong race in 1 minute 10.52 seconds.

The handle for the six Breeders' Cup races Friday was $42,490,444, a 6.4% decrease from $45,393,976 last year.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimespugmire

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