Saturday, July 20, 2013, SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Princess of Sylmar put an exclamation point on her Kentucky Oaks score with an authoritative six-length win in the 97th running of the Grade 1, $300,000 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
Last of five behind a modest opening half-mile in 48.98 seconds, Princess of Sylmar began to pick off rivals inside the three-eighths pole while racing under jockey Javier Castellano’s hold. She claimed a narrow lead at the head of the stretch, then pulled clear under a drive as pacesetter My Happy Face gave vain chase in second.
The 2-1 second choice, Princess of Sylmar returned $6.30 for a $2 win wager and completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.07.
“I had a beautiful trip,” said Castellano, who had ridden Princess of Sylmar twice earlier in her career but wasn’t aboard for her Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks victory. “The way I handicapped the race, I really liked her, and Todd [Pletcher] gave me a lot of confidence in the horse. I really appreciate that Todd give me back the horse because I couldn’t hook up in the [Kentucky] Oaks. I really liked the way she did it. It was a great performance today. She ran like the best horse in the race. I’m really proud of her.”
Princess of Sylmar, who races for Ed Stanco’s King of Prussia Stable, has now won six of her past seven starts, including the Busanda and Busher over the inner track during the winter at Aqueduct. After finishing second to Close Hatches in the Grade 2 Gazelle on the main track in April at the Big A, Princess of Sylmar rallied from 10 lengths back to post a 38-1 upset in the Kentucky Oaks on May 3 at Churchill Downs.
“We kept her in New York [over the winter]; it was a conscious decision,” said winning Todd Pletcher, who won the Grade 3 Shuvee Handicap earlier on the card with Authenticity. “We had a choice to make in February whether to bring her down to Florida. We certainly thought she was good enough, but she was doing so well and had such a good rhythm, we came up with a game plan and we stuck to it.
“Honestly, people who were maybe at Aqueduct this winter were more impressed than the people who don’t pay close attention to Aqueduct in the winter,” Pletcher continued. “So, maybe even though they were not really against the best fillies in the country, they were very impressive performances. I think everyone kind of lost sight of the fact that going into the Kentucky Oaks, it was billed as the best Oaks we’ve seen in 25 years, this filly wins it and gets virtually no respect. I think today she put herself at the top of the leader board, and now everyone understands that the Kentucky Oaks was a real race.”
Overall, Princess of Sylmar, a Pennsylvania-bred, has six wins and a second in eight starts. The $180,000 winner’s share of the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks purse pushed her lifetime earnings to $1,007,220.
Marathon Lady was third and was followed home by Cue the Moon and favored Unlimited Budget.
By Jon Forbes