Back in 1996, the inaugural running of the Dubai World Cup (G1) went to the mighty Cigar.
Trained by Bill Mott, Cigar beat Burt Bacharach's contender Soul of the Matter. This year, Mott returns to the City of Gold in an attempt to win the big race for a second time.
His filly Royal Delta winning would not be totally unexpected, but it would be an unusual achievement. Can she match strides with the best of the boys?
Royal Delta has yet to race against the boys but she is one of the best fillies in North America and that Mott earmarked her for the World Cup soon after she had won at last year's Breeders' Cup is a tip in itself. It would be unwise to underestimate this girl.
She won twice at the highest level last year, landing the Alabama Stakes (G1) by 5 ½ lengths at Saratoga in August, and the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs in November. She was racing against older fillies and mares at Churchill, and had to dig deep to beat them all, but Royal Delta's class and stamina tipped the scales in her favour in the closing stages. She fought her way past It's Tricky, then drew off to beat her by 2 ½ lengths. This was Royal Delta's fourth win in 2011, four wins gained over four quite different tracks; Keeneland, Pimlico, Saratoga and Churchill Downs. Interestingly, her win at Keeneland came over a synthetic surface.
This daughter of Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Empire Maker has shown herself to be versatile, and there is no reason to doubt that she can run well on the Tapeta. She made her comeback in the Sabin Stakes (G3) over 8.5 furlongs on dirt at Gulfstream Park in February, but was well and truly trounced by Awesome Maria, who was 8 lengths in front of her passing the winning post. Three factors combined to create such a defeat for Royal Delta; the distance was too short for her, the winner is a top class miler with early speed, and the short run from the final bend to the finish line gave Royal Delta no chance of catching up.
Bill Mott was not disappointed, and kept his sight firmly on Meydan. "She ran about the same as she did on her last start before the Breeders' Cup," he said.
An interesting point, since her prep run for the Breeders' Cup was a second place finish to Havre de Grace in the Beldame Stakes (G1) in New York. She beat Royal Delta by 8 ½ lengths there, and it needs mentioning that Havre de Grace was voted 2011 Horse of The Year in the USA. So, if her run at Gulfstream was as good as her run in the Beldame, there can be only one conclusion; Royal Delta is on schedule for a big run in the World Cup.
Geir Stabell is the editor of Globeform, a Newmarket-based independent racing and handicapping publication.