If the Horse Racing season were to end now, I would imagine either Wise Dan or Game On Dude would probably win racing’s highest honor, Horse of the Year. At the end of this year, I’m pretty sure I’ll be voting for one of the two. I say pretty sure because three year old filly Princess of Sylmar is certainly making a strong case for herself.
It might be a long-shot for her to win the award but I have to tell you, I believe she catapulted herself squarely into the Horse of the Year picture with her decisive win over two time champion Royal Delta this past weekend in the Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park
A three year old filly being named Horse of the Year? Preposterous right?… Wrong…I don’t mean to draw comparisons in any way but does anyone remember Rachel Alexandra in 2009 winning the award? Hell, I know it was a while back but Moccasin won it as a two year old filly in 1965…..further back, Busher was a three year old Horse of the Year filly in 1945 and the great Twilight Tear, another three year old filly, the year before that. I know I’m going way back but Regret won the award as a three year old filly in 1915 and take one guess who won Horse of the Year as a three year old filly before that?….none other than Beldame in herself in 1904.
Anyway, again I say, its probably a longshot that she wins the award. I mean that locomotive most of us know as Wise Dan would have to have a monumental collaspe, so too would the speedy Game On Dude, who has an extremely high cruising speed and just runs his competition off their feet.
But humor me for a minute….
Princess of Sylmar is not a flash in the pan by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, the chestnut filly with a narrow white blaze running down her face, was bred in Pennsylvania by Ed Stanco. She is from the first crop of foals sired by Majestic Warrior and is the first foal out of her dam Storm Dixie, who accomplished next to nothing on the track.
The filly is named after the Sylmar Farm in Christiana, Pennsylvania where she was foaled: Her name, and the farm’s name, came from the fact that its owner had previously operated from a street which was on the border of Pennsylvania and Maryland…Get it?
Princess of Sylmar began her racing career at Penn National on October 12. She broke last in a 5 ½ furlongs state bred maiden race and quickly found herself 11 lengths off the early lead. But she came under a ride and made up over 8 lengths from the top of the stretch to the wire to finish fourth….it was quite a finish.
It appears she improved almost over-night as her next race (3 weeks later, also at Penn National) which was at one mile, she was much closer to the early pace before taking over at the quarter pole and absolutely decimating the field….she ran away and hid…winning by an astounding 19 lengths.
It was time to start thinking big….as in the Big Apple… and in December of 2012, she moved to Aqueduct Race Track in Queens, NY for an allowance race. After experiencing some traffic issues at the top of the stretch, she turned on the afterburners and won by 5.
Her next race, which marked her first start as a three year old in January of 2013, was the $100,000 Busanda Stakes also at Aqueduct. Once again after settling off the early pace she came with her potent late run and demolished the field in winning by 7 ½ lengths.
A month later she was started in the $98,000 Busher Stakes, again at Aqueduct, and again the same results as in the Busher. She took the lead on the final turn and won laughing by seven lengths.
In April of 2013, Princess of Sylmar stepped up in class to contest the Grade:2 Gazelle Stakes in which she was matched against the previously undefeated filly Close Hatches.
After being hung 3 wide on the first turn and (if you ask me) an error in rider judgement (Jockey Javier Castellano moved Princess of Sylmar up to challenge Close Hatches just after half way point….which I thought it was way too early to move on her) the fillies raced head and head into the stretch (with Princess of Sylmar going 4 wide on the far turn) but at that point, Close Hatches pulled away to win by three and a quarter lengths.
Lots of people, including myself, were thinking…”Nice filly…but not among the elite”
Not so…the May 3 Kentucky Oaks, one of the more prestigous races for three year old fillies in the country, wound up being her coming out party.
Princess of Sylmar went off at an astronomical 39-1 odds as she was facing the division’s best in Close Hatches, Beholder (two year old filly champion and winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies) and Dreaming of Julia, who had won her last start (the Gulfstream Oaks) by more than 20 lengths.
Princess of Sylmar was bothered at the start and, once again, was well behind (9th, 11 lengths back) in the early going. New jockey Mike Smith calmy weaved her thru traffic and had her in striking position on the far turn.
Smith then kicked her to the outside and she unleashed that huge late run and overtook Beholder in deep stretch to win by half a length. After the race, trainer Todd Pletcher said that he was “pleasantly surprised with her effort and her win. She’s a good filly; we knew that all along”
On July 20, Princess of Sylmar once again ridden by Javier Castellano, was entered in the another prestigous race, the Coaching Club American Oaks over nine furlongs at Saratoga. The favorite was the strapping Unlimited Budget, also trained by Pletcher, who had finished third in the Kentucky Oaks before running sixth behind Palace Malice in the Belmont Stakes.
Like clockwork, Princess of Sylmar cruised along unhurried down the back stretch before moving up on the outside on the final turn. She blew past the field and won by six lengths.
About a month later, Princess of Sylmar was matched against the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes winner Fiftyshadesofhay in the ultra prestigious Alabama Stakes. The big filly was wrangled back into fourth position early but by the half mile pole she had assumed command of the race and never looked back….she won comfortably by two and a half lengths.
Of the winner’s performance, Jockey Javier Castellano said; “She’s an amazing horse. Everything we’ve asked, she has responded so well so far”.
So what was left for her to do after she had completely wiped out the three year old filly division? The answer, her connection thought, was to take on older, two time female champion Royal Delta in the Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park.
I must admit I thought going into that race perhaps her connections, Stanco/Pletcher, had finally put her in a bad position. As we all know, matching a three year old filly versus a five year old mare (and a two time Eclipse Award winning mare at that) certainly didn’t favor her.
At the start, Royal Delta stumbled slightly and assume the early lead but then yielded it to long-shot (35-1) Roman Invader.
Royal Delta, who went off at miniscule 1/5 odds, sat right off Roman Invader into the final turn before taking over. Personally, I thought the race was over at that point but Princess of Sylmar moved up and alongside Royal Delta at the top of the stretch and simply outran her down the lane to win by two lengths.
I was speechless watching the stretch run….well, actually, what I said, I can not put into print but it was two words and began with “Holy“
“If you asked me what the pace was, I couldn’t have told you. I thought :48 or :49” now regular jockey Javier Castellano said. “My filly did it so easy. I was a little concerned the first half because my goal was just to get her in a good spot, and I had to use her a little bit early in the race to get her into a good spot. Turning for home, I turned her loose just a little bit and she gave me the gear and she took off.
Here is the replay of the Beldame, watch carefully as Castellano just shows Princess of Sylmar the whip down the stretch and never actually hits her with it. Which in turn, readers, means she was not full out. So Princess of Sylmar can beat Royal Delta by two lengths while not giving it her all? That is scary..and makes me wonder exactly how good is this filly?
I’m sorry but seven stakes wins including four Grade: 1 stakes wins in a row, with three of those being the most prestigious races in the country for her division and manhandling champion Royal Delta all in the same year? That, readers, is very impressive.
Whether you think I’m nuts (and trust me, you won’t be the only one) or not for considering her, that’s up to you. But at the very least, you certainly have to respect the 2013 season she has had.
Thanks for Reading…
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