by Brian Bohl
Blue Devil Racing Stable's Come Dancing surged to the lead and never looked back, outkicking 8-5 favorite Berned and No Need to Appeal to cruise to a gate-to-wire 6 ¼-length win in the inaugural running of the $100,000 Royal Delta for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up on Sunday at Belmont Park.
Under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, Come Dancing led the five-horse field through the opening quarter-mile in 24.52 seconds on the sloppy and sealed main track, with a half-mile in 48.72. The 4-year-old Malibu Moon filly maintained the advantage out of the turn, going to the inside while drawing away from No Need to Appeal and a charging Berned, completing 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.78.
Come Dancing notched her first stakes win in three attempts, winning in her first start at more than seven furlongs for trainer Carlos Martin.
"She liked [the distance]. She did it pretty easy. There wasn't much speed in the race, so that helped relax her the first part of the race," Velazquez said. "She was galloping along in a very comfortable stride. After that, it was pretty easy.
She was pretty comfortable with what she was doing on the backstretch. I was just hoping that she'd stay like that. She got a little anxious but then she rode really well. She kept looking at the infield [in the stretch] and I said 'come on momma, keep your mind on running.'"
Off at 5-2, Come Dancing paid $7.90 on a $2 win wager, improving her career earnings to $188,200. The Kentucky homebred has four wins in six career starts and has now won at least once at all three NYRA tracks after finding the winner's circle in December at Aqueduct Racetrack and defeating allowance company on July 25 at Saratoga Race Course before she followed with a fourth-place finish in the Shine Again a week later on August 1 at the Spa.
"We got back to Belmont and she had trained sensational after the race at Saratoga," Martin said. "I had taken a gamble running her back in a week and it didn't work out for us, but she was really training well out of that race. I trained her a little bit differently and Irad [Ortiz, Jr.] has done a great job with her. Unfortunately, he couldn't ride her today, but Johnny did a great job. I was actually looking at a three-other-than allowance that didn't fill and then this race came up and I said, 'I really feel good about taking a chance with the way she's training at Belmont.' Making her a stakes winner is big for us. Blue Devil has the whole family.
"We're going to nominate to everything and look at all the options," he added. I think this opens up a lot of dimensions. She made an easy lead, but she's always been kind and rated in her races before, so I think she's going to be a dangerous horse going forward."
Berned, trained by Graham Motion, finished 1 ½ lengths ahead of No Need to Appeal for second. Dreamcall and Sneaky Betty completed the order of finish. Divine Miss Grey and Frostie Anne were scratched.