OUISVILLE, Ky. — The Saudi prince with a passion for horses had a hand in raising Royal Delta from her birth on his Kentucky farm. He died a few months before her biggest victory at the Breeders’ Cup.
Royal Delta won the $2 million Ladies’ Classic by 2½ lengths under the lights Friday at Churchill Downs, capping an opening day of the season-ending world championships that included three upsets, with John Velazquez aboard two of them.
Prince Saud bin Khaled passed away in February after an illness. His Palides Investments stable continued to operate, although Royal Delta is set to be sold at auction next week as part of a complete dispersal of his holdings.
“He was just a wonderful man,” said Karen Woods, who co-owned 2008 Juvenile Fillies winner Maram with the prince and was his longtime companion. “It’s just a shame that his sons don’t have the same passion that he does for the sport.”
Royal Delta rallied in the final furlong to give Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott his second straight win and fourth overall in the Ladies’ Classic. The 3-year-old filly was the slight 2-1 favorite over Plum Pretty.
“It’s nice just to win one of these, let alone two in a row,” Mott said.
European-based horses were shut out during the six-race Breeders’ Cup card, while Canada and Saudi Arabia had a win apiece in front of 40,677 on a sunny but chilly day.
In the Ladies’ Classic, Royal Delta ran 1 1-8 miles in 1:50.78 under Jose Lezcano and paid $6.40 to win.
“She broke real good and she was very comfortable and relaxed,” Lezcano said. “When I asked her, she gave me a very good kick.”
It’s Tricky finished second and Pachattack was another 2¼ lengths back in third. Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty, trained by Bob Baffert, was fourth in the 10-horse field.
Mott wasn’t the only Hall of Fame trainer to win. Baffert opened the day with a victory by 2-5 favorite Secret Circle in the $500,000 Juvenile Sprint, new this year.
“I thought going in that if he didn’t run well, I might be in for a bad weekend,” said Baffert, who will saddle Game On Dude in the $5 million Classic on Saturday.
The day’s biggest upset came in the Filly & Mare Turf, with Velazquez aboard 27-1 shot Perfect Shirl for owner Charles Fipke and trainer Roger Attfield, both based in Canada. He also rode 6-1 Stephanie’s Kitten to a win by three-quarters of a length in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf.
The other surprise was 20-1 Musical Romance winning the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint by 1¼ lengths.
My Miss Aurelia improved to 4-0 with a three-length victory in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies as the 2-1 favorite.