Royal Delta shines on day of upsets
Royal Delta shines on day of upsets
Royal Delta lived up to her billing as the top female horse in the United States by retaining her title in the $2 million Ladies’ Classic in stunning fashion at a sun-drenched Santa Anita Park.
With Smith on board, the Kentucky-bred filly took control of the race by the first turn and easily fended off late bursts by My Miss Aurelia and Include Me Out down the stretch.
The previously unbeaten My Miss Aurelia finished one-and-a-half lengths back with Include Me Out in third, a further one-and-a-quarter lengths adrift.
Smith, 47, was elated after pulling ahead of fellow Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey with his 16th career win at the Breeders’ Cup, which is billed as the world championship of thoroughbred racing.
“It’s incredible to be with the riders on this list,” Smith smiled. “It’s truly an honor. I hope to be around a few more years to add to it.” Royal Delta, an overwhelming 8-5 favorite when she entered the starting gate, was the only fancied horse to win on Friday on a six-race card.
Other winners in front of a Santa Anita crowd of just over 34,000 were: Zagora in the Filly and Mare Turf; Beholder, who upset favorite Executiveprivilege in the Juvenile Fillies; and Calidoscopio in the Marathon.
French raider Flotilla took the Juvenile Fillies Turf and long-shot Hightail captured the Juvenile Sprint, the first race of the day.
But the stand out on Friday was Royal Delta, who raised comparisons with 2009 Breeders Classic champion Zenyatta, a retired thoroughbred mare who was ridden by Smith for 17 of her 20 starts.
“She is close to it,” Smith said when asked how Royal Delta matched up to Zenyatta’s impressive physique. “She has that kind of stride. She has a tremendous stride. She does it with ease.
“She actually waits for competition, and once they get to her she locks on them and seems like she can get around them again.” PLAN SHELVED Royal Delta, a daughter of 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker, had also been entered for the marquee Breeders’ Classic on Saturday but that plan was shelved, mainly due to her trainer Bill Mott.
Mott will have three other horses running in the $5 million Classic, a race he won last year with Drosselmeyer.
“We’ve got three good chances in there tomorrow, and we’re certainly not counting our chickens before they hatch, but ... I think any one of the three has a chance,” Mott said.
“I know it’s a deep race and there are good horses and horses that have proven themselves well over this race track. You’ve got to push forward and look to tomorrow.” French-bred mare Zagora stormed home to win the Filly & Mare Turf in what will likely be the last start of her career.
Due to be sold at auction later this month, Martin Schwartz’s five-year-old stormed down the home straight with jockey Javier Castellano aboard to overtake the fancied Marketing Mix and hold off the highly favored The Fugue.
Zagora prevailed by three-quarters of a length, giving trainer Chad Brown just his second Breeders Cup win.
“She had everything go her way today,” Brown said. “She got the turf she likes, she got a great trip and she’s been training great.” Hightail, a 15-1 longshot, upset odds-on favorite Merit Man in the Juvenile Sprint, winning by a nose after a storming late surge from inside the rail.
Suggestions that Hightail might have interfered with Merit Man’s line down the stretch were cleared after a post-race inquiry.
Hightail’s stunning victory extended Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas’s record total of Breeders’ Cup wins to 19.
“At my age it’s significant,” smiled the 77-year-old Lukas. “I don’t know how many (wins) there are, but I always thought we could get one more. It’s exciting. They don’t come that easy.”
Saudi Arabia step up their World Cup preparations by flying to Switzerland for training camp
- Squad of 28 to be based in Zurich
- Friendlies on the horizon against Italy and Peru
Juan Antonio Pizzi has taken a 28-man squad to Zurich for the final stage of the Green Falcons’ World Cup preparations.
The party flew out of Jeddah late last night and landed in Switzerland early this morning. There they will be joined by Fahad Al-Muwallad and Salem Al-Dawsari who will fly in from Spain after playing for Levante and Villarreal on Saturday night.
The three-week training camp in the Swiss resort town of Bad Ragaz gives Pizzi the chance to get stuck into some intense tactical and physical work with his players and decide which five players to leave out of his squad. He must whittle down his list down to 23 by June 4, which gives the players get two final chances to stake their claim for a seat on the plane in friendlies against Italy on May 28 and Peru on June 3. By the time they play Germany in Leverkusen on June 8, Pizzi will have named his party for the assignment in Russia.
Pizzi is clearly much nearer knowing who he will take as he has only made minor changes to the squad he named for the recent wins against Greece and Algeria.
Al-Ittihad goalkeeper Assaf Al-Qarni replaces his club teammate Fawaz Al-Qarni as the fourth stopper in the squad, as Pizzi looks settled on retaining Al-Ahli duo Yasser Al-Mosaileem and Mohammed Al-Owais in addition to Al-Hilal’s Abdullah Al-Mayouf. One of those four will fail to make the cut as no team takes four goalkeepers to the World Cup.
There were no changes in the backline where the former Chile boss is opting for harmony. Eight of the nine defenders called up ply their trade at Al-Hilal or Al-Ahli, while Al-Nassr’s Omar Hawsawi rounds off the selection. One defender might have to make way and Al-Hilal teammates Mohammad Jahfali and Ali Al-Bulayhi could well find themselves vying for one spot on the plane to Moscow.
Abdullah Otayf and Taisir Al-Jassim look to be firm favorites to make the starting XI in the base of midfield, while the third central spot is up for grabs. Hussein Al-Moqahwi has regularly featured in that position, but Salman Al-Faraj’s return from a long injury saw him start both friendlies in the Spain training camp. Abdulmalik Al-Khaibari could emerge as the more conservative midfield enforcer against stronger sides.
The center of the pitch is where the most intense battle of positions will take place. As many as three midfielders could be left behind come June 4. Ibrahim Ghaleb has already been left out and he may be joined by Al-Shabab duo Hattan Bahebri and Abdulla Al-Khaibari. One of Mohammad Kanno and Mohammed Al Kuwaikbi could be the last man to be dropped in two weeks’ time.
Up front, Harun Kamara, a surprise call-up for the recent friendlies, failed to retain his spot in the squad so Mohannad Assiri and Mohammed Al-Sahlawi will battle it out for the sole striker position.
Goalkeepers: Mohammed Al-Owais, Yasser Al-Mosaileem (Al-Ahli); Abdullah Al-Mayouf (Al-Hilal); Assaf Al-Qarni (Al-Ittihad)
Defenders: Motaz Hawsawi, Saeed Al-Muwallad, Mansour Al-Harbi (Al-Ahli); Osama Hawsawi, Mohammed Jahfali, Ali Al-Bulayhi, Mohammed Al-Burayk, Yasser Al-Shahrani (Al-Hilal); Omar Hawsawi (Al-Nassr).
Midfielders: Abdullah Al-Khaibari, Hattan Bahebri (Al-Shabab); Abdulmalik Al-Khaibari, Abdulla Otayf, Salman Al-Faraj, Mohammed Kanno, Nawaf Al-Abid (Al-Hilal); Taisir Al-Jassim, Hussein Al-Moqahwi (Al-Ahli); Mohammed Al-Kuwaikbi (Al-Ettifaq); Salem Al-Dawsari (Villarreal); Fahad Al-Muwallad (Levante); Yahya Al-Shehri (Leganes)
Forwards: Mohammed Al-Sahlawi (Al-Nassr); Mohannad Assiri (Al-Ahli)