Champion female Royal Delta will face five challengers Saturday as the 5-year-old mare goes for a second straight win in the $400,000 Beldame Invitational at Belmont Park.
Last year in the 1 1/8-mile stakes, Royal Delta blew away her competition with a 9 1/2-length victory, leading to her second consecutive win in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, now renamed the Distaff.
The Beldame is a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" event which gives the winner an automatic spot in the Breeders' Cup Distaff on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita. Royal Delta secured her entry in the Distaff with wins this year in the Delaware Handicap and Personal Ensign Stakes.
Owned by Besilu Stables, Royal Delta will have Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith again riding. The pair will break from post 4 as the overwhelming favorites.
Royal Delta, trained by Bill Mott, is a two-time Eclipse Award winner, having been voted 2011 champion 3-year-old filly and last year's champion older female.
"Royal Delta is doing well. I would say it seems she's on the same path she was last year (en route to her second Breeders' Cup win)," Mott said.
The mare won her last two starts by better than 15 lengths, including a 10 3/4-length victory July 20 in the Delaware Handicap. She notched the Personal Ensign on Aug. 25 at Saratoga by 4 1/2 lengths.
"When she comes with her 'A' game, that's what you expect," said Mott after the Personal Ensign at Saratoga on Aug. 25.
In her first race of the year, Royal Delta posted a five-length victory in the Sabin at Gulfstream Park. On March 30, the mare finished a disappointing 10th in the Dubai World Cup. She came back home with a second-place finish as the 3-10 favorite in the Fleur de Lis on June 15 at Churchill Downs.
Royal Delta has lifetime earnings of $4,611,126 with 12 wins in 20 starts.
Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out leading 3-year-old filly Princess of Sylmar to face older females in the Beldame for the first time. The filly will have Javier Castellano riding again and start from post 2.
"She's a serious filly," said Mott of Princess of Sylmar. "You can't take her for granted."
Princess of Sylmar, Pennsylvania-bred and owned by her breeder King of Prussia Stable, has won her last three starts and seven of nine career starts for $1,367,220.
The filly is coming off wins in the Alabama and Coaching Club American Oaks, both at Saratoga and the Kentucky Oaks on May 3 at Churchill Downs. She also registered wins this year in the Busanda and Busher Stakes at Aqueduct with a second in the Gazelle at the New York track.
Here is the full field for the Beldame from the rail out: Roman Invader, Junior Alvarado, 20-1; Princess of Sylmar, Javier Castellano, 2-1; And Why Not, Luis Saez, 20-1; Royal Delta, Mike Smith, 3-5; Centring, Rajiv Maragh, 8-1 and Lady Cohiba, Irad Ortiz Jr., 15-1.
Post-time for the Beldame will be approximately 3:10 p.m. (ET).