A champion filly's work is never really done.

 By Michele MacDonald

     Royal Delta galloped around Meydan Racecourse just after sunrise on March 25 and then returned to school in the paddock as the last rays of daylight tickled the towers of Dubai’s emphatic skyline.

     Through it all, she maintained her regal bearing, never showing signs of temper or anxiety, although she seemed to radiate ripples of energy as she gazed at every group of people and all the unusual architectural flourishes of Meydan that she encountered on her journeys.

Caption: Royal Delta at Dubai
Photo: Michele MacDonald

     With trainer Bill Mott due to arrive on Tuesday, Royal Delta is getting high marks so far from her connections.

      “She trained really well,” said Leana Willaford, Mott’s asistant who has been riding Royal Delta at Meydan. “She’s feeling good.”

      Both Willaford and Mylor Rider, a stable foreman for Mott who also accompanied America’s best three-year-old filly of 2011 to Dubai, clearly are fans as well as caretakers. Rider carried a Nikon camera slung over his shoulder along with Royal Delta’s halter as he led her to the track in the morning with Willaford aboard so he could take some photos as they galloped past.

      And what a sight she was; it is difficult to imagine Royal Delta ever looking anything but lovely and powerful in photos. She strode past various crowds of onlookers and media with her ears up and in a perfect frame, covering the ground with a big reach yet quiet, fluid movement.

Caption: Royal Delta working in Dubai
Photo: Michele MacDonald

       During her schooling session, in which she experienced all the areas of Meydan she will see when she runs in the $10-million Dubai World Cup (UAE-gr.I ) on March 31, she walked with her head held high through tunnels and around the tremendous saddling paddock. Rider took her into a saddling stall and she was fitted with a girth and pad to simulate a racing saddle.

      Then it was Willaford’s turn with a camera and she snapped some souvenir images as the filly seemed to pose.

Caption: Royal Delta schooling in Dubai
Photo: Michele MacDonald

     “She is such a pretty filly—elegant,” Willaford noted.

     Royal Delta took her schooling turn on one side of the paddock, which lies beneath the outstretched wings of the architectural falcon that can be seen from the air above the Meydan grandstand, while fellow Breeders’ Cup winner Regally Ready and Grade 1 winner Giant Ryan schooled on the other side.

      All three American horses continued to be on their best behavior as they proceeded on to the parade ring, where the lights shone as if it was show time.

      After two turns to simulate what they will do on race night, they walked out and into the tunnel that would take them back to waiting vans that then would shuttle them back to their stalls—a lengthy process over the vast expanse of Meydan.

     Only six more days remain until they will retrace their steps back to that parade ring and then on to the racetrack and starting gate. For Royal Delta, it will be a chance to do what has never been done by any other female runner—capture the world’s richest race.

     At this point, anything seems possible.


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