Champion mare Royal Delta gets back into competition Saturday night at Churchill Downs in the $175,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap, a race she won last year by eight lengths.
The 5-year-old champion has been slated as the 2-5 morning-line favorite versus four female rivals in the 1 1/8-mile stakes.
"Royal Delta's timing is the same as it was last year and I think we've got a similar amount of work in her," trainer Bill Mott said. "She's doing well and it's just time to go back to the races with her. She looks good, she's doing well and I'm very happy with her. I think she's perhaps a little bigger and stronger than last year, appearance-wise. She's a year older and I think she's becoming a fully-mature horse."
Owned by Benjamin Leon Jr.'s Besilu Stables, Royal Delta will again be ridden by Mike Smith and leave from the outside post in the five-horse field.
The 5-year-old finished 10th in her last start to 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom in the Dubai World Cup on March 30. She began the year with a victory in the Sabin Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 17.
Royal Delta is a two-time Eclipse Award winner as 2011 champion 3-year-old filly and last year's top older female. She has victories in the last two Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classics as well as wins in 2012 in the Beldame Stakes and Delaware Handicap.
The champion mare has career earnings of $3,763,851 with 10 wins in 17 races.
Here are the post positions for the Fleur de Lis: Funny Proposition, Joel Rosario; Ice Cream Silence, Rosie Napravnik; Wine Princess, Shuan Bridgmohan, She's All In, Ricardo Santana, Jr. and Royal Delta, Mike Smith.
"Royal Delta is a proven champion and a serious racehorse," said Steve Margolis, who trains Wine Princess, "but we've got quality too and we're undefeated on the dirt here. We're looking forward to the challenge and feel our horse deserves a shot."
The Fleur de Lis will go off at 8:30 p.m. (ET) as part of Churchill's "Downs After Dark" nighttime racing program.
Funny Proposition, who is a perfect 3-for-3 on the main track at Churchill Downs, enters the Fleur de Lis off a three-length victory in a one-mile allowance/optional-claiming race beneath the Twin Spires on May 17.
When they come out of a race like that, you hope they come out of it well and show they have the same level of energy, said Norman Casse, assistant to his father. She came back well and had a really nice half-mile work and then her five-eighths work last week (1:00.40 on June 8) was tremendous.
Shes never been able to run consistently like you would need a stakes horse to do, Casse said. Shes had some little hiccups along the way.