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.
In the Ladies' Classic, Plum Pretty took the early lead as expected while running slow fractions, withRoyal Delta in fourth. Turning for home, Plum Pretty began fading and Lezcano swung Royal Delta four-wide to come charging down the stretch and earn her fifth win in eight career starts.
"I started to get a little worried because the speed seemed to be carrying very well," Mott said. "About the time I started to worry, I saw her starting to gain momentum. Once she got to 'em, it was adios, see you later."
The win clinched year-end 3-year-old filly honors for Royal Delta, who will be part of the sale at Keeneland. Woods hopes she will stay in Mott's barn.
The prince began his breeding and racing operation in 1984 with the purchase of six horses. He set up his 260-acre Chanteclair Farm near Midway, Ky., 11 years later.
"He loved the farm and every horse. He knew them all well," said Woods, adding that the prince personally chose which stallions and mares would produce the best matings, including the one that led to Royal Delta'sbirth.
"He was able to see her maiden win, so he knew how good she probably was going to be. It's definitely the best horse he's ever bred."
Celebrity chef Bobby Flay was 0 for 3, although Her Smile finished third in the Filly & Mare Sprint. MTV host Rob Dyrdek also had a third-place finish as co-owner of Weemissfrankie in the Juvenile Fillies.
Velazquez rode in five of the six Breeders' Cup races and departed without talking to reporters.