Princess Cruises; Time to Drop Anchor?

Now that Princess of Sylmar has elevated herself to new a plateau atop not only the 3-year-old filly division, but the rankings of best filly or mare in the nation, her connections, mainly majority owner Ed Stanco, have to carefully weigh their options as to what the next step will be.

It is a decision racing fans, reporters, Breeders’ Cup officials, and most everyone else anxiously await, as it will have a profound effect on the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. It is also a decision no owner can envision having to make one day after winning a maiden race at Penn National. But then, that is what makes the story of Princess of Sylmar and Stanco so compelling and magical.

But more on decisions later. For now, it is all about the present. And what a present it is for Stanco, his family, and their remarkable filly, having gone from the fields of Pennsylvania to Penn National to the inner track at Aqueduct to Kentucky Oaks glory, and then that extraordinary run of grade I victories at Saratoga, right up to Saturday’s conquest of the mighty Royal Delta.

It is only appropriate that at Saratoga this year you could find Stanco most days at the “Carousel” area behind the Saratoga grandstand, wagering and hanging out with friends. Stanco’s year has been a carousel of sorts – in constant motion, “riding” a magnificent steed, and collecting brass rings along the way.

Now that Princess of Sylmar has developed a habit of winning grade I stakes, Stanco is well aware that celebration comes in different forms -- whether it is hearing the now familiar chants of “Ed-die! Ed-die!” from his entourage of friends and family members as he enters the winner’s circle or observing a young girl standing behind a rail holding a modest hand-made poster that reads: “Pennsylvania’s Pride…Princess of Sylmar’s #1 Fan!”

Stanco has heard the chants before, and says he would prefer to hear “Prin-cess! Prin-cess!” But the adoration of a young fan he had never met before struck a special cord following Saturday’s Beldame Stakes and he agreed to meet the girl, named Averie Levanti, and her father, who had driven his daughter from Reading, Pa. just to see Princess of Sylmar. The meeting, however, did not come off as planned, and as Belmont was emptying out, Averie was running around frantically looking for Stanco. They finally were able to hook up and Stanco brought her and her father back to the barn to meet Princess of Sylmar.

“She said it was the best day of her life,” Stanco said. “It made it all worthwhile. It was just priceless.”

Averie expressed her gratitude to Stanco. "Meeting Princess was amazing," she wrote to him. "It literally felt unreal and I just wanted to thank you so much for everything. The enthusiasm that comes with each win is unseen in racing and it brings a smile to my face every time. Thanks again for giving me this amazing opportunity."

Meanwhile, watching on TV were Ronnie and Betsy Houghton, who foaled and raised Princess of Sylmar.

“Oh my gosh, we were thrilled to death,” Betsy said. “I’m at the Timonium sale right now and you can’t believe how many people are talking about her. She’s just an incredible filly. She does everything so easily. I spoke to Ed yesterday and he said the day was just a blur to him.”

With Princess of Sylmar’s victories in the Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks, and Alabama Stakes a champion was born. With her Beldame victory against the 1-5 Royal Delta a hero was born.

“This is just unbelievable,” Stanco said following the race as he listened to the cheers from the crowd for his filly. “This is for the people. Look at how many fans came out here to watch the performances of these two fillies.”

As soon as everything sinks in and Stanco and trainer Todd Pletcher have a chance to assess how the filly came out of the race, Stanco will have to make a decision whether to go to Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. He has stated all along that he wants to race Princess of Sylmar again next year and does not want to subject her to a long hard trip at the end of a campaign that actually began last October and carried through the winter meet at Aqueduct. She did get a much-needed 2 1/2-month vacation after the Kentucky Oaks, but has come back with three monster performances.

“I know everyone wants to see her run, but it’s about the filly,” Stanco said. “I really don’t want to overextend her and possibly burn her out. That’s so critical to me. We’ve been with her since the day she was born and she’s very special. She’s a gift, a blessing, and we treat her that way. Hopefully, she has a lot of racing in her next year. We’re here to race. We don’t get into any of this return on investment. It’s really up to Todd, but we don’t want the travel to take anything out of her. You can see how special she is. I mean she is truly truly special. She does this without effort.

“This is unchartered territory for us. Remember, we use to do these strategy sessions, except we used to ask, ‘Do we go in a $7,500 claimer or a $5,000 claimer?’”

Statistics may bear out Stanco’s initial feelings. The last 3-year-old filly to win the Beldame was Imperial Gesture 11 years ago.

Princess of Sylmar’s time of 1:47 4/5 was the fastest Beldame since the 5-year-old Riboletta 13 years ago, and Riboletta went on to finish seventh in the Distaff as the 2-5 favorite.

The last 3-year-old filly to win the Beldame in faster time was Yanks Music 17 years ago and she never ran again. Prior to Yanks Music, the Beldame was won by 3-year-olds four years in a row and all would contest the Distaff – Serena’s Song, who would finish fifth, beaten 18 3/4 lengths; Heavenly Prize, who was upset by a 47-1 shot; Dispute, who would finish fourth; and Saratoga Dew, who would finish 12th, beaten 13 1/2 lengths, as the 2-1 favorite.

It can be said that Royal Delta won the Distaff as a 3-year-old coming off the Beldame, but she was beaten 8 1/4 lengths by Havre de Grace in 1:49 1/5, and Havre de Grace skipped the Distaff to run in the Classic.

In short, the Beldame, which used to be the championship race, along with possibly the Spinster, is a tough race, going 1 1/8 miles around only one turn, and even more tough on 3-year-olds facing older horses, and still more tough when the older horse you’re beating is a two-time Eclipse Award winner and two-time Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner.

It is to Stanco’s credit that he ran Princess of Sylmar against Royal Delta in the Beldame instead of going for the $1 million purse of the grade I Cotillion Stakes against 3-year-olds, where she would have received a hometown hero’s welcome.

“This is where she should be,” Stanco said in the paddock early on Saturday. “My main thing is, I want her back next year. As I’ve said, we’re racing for history today, not the money. This is a new stratosphere for us.”

And history is what he made, as Princess of Sylmar became the first filly ever to win the Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks, Alabama, and Beldame in the same year.

Stanco remembers the moment when Princess of Sylmar first launched herself into that stratosphere, back during the cold winter days at Aqueduct while Todd Pletcher’s main force was basking in the Florida sun at Palm Meadows.

“It was in December of last year at Aqueduct (in an allowance/optional claimer) when she was behind Kimono (the 6-5 favorite trained by Pletcher) and she pulled out and (Rajiv Maragh) touched her once and she exploded (winning by 5 1/4 lengths),” Stanco recalled. “That was the moment that really told us she could be something special. It was after that we got a significant offer to sell her. It was very good deal and I went through the economics, but my children begged me not to consider it. They said, ‘Dad, you’re not a breeder, you’re a racer.’”

And race he did, right into the record books. With each victory, the Princess of Sylmar bandwagon kept picking up passengers, and she’s taken them on quite a magical ride. To demonstrate how she's come, her win payoff of $79.60 in the Kentucky Oaks is the highest win payoff in a grade I stakes this year.

Stanco recalled following the offer, “Todd said, ‘Ed, the numbers are right, but, remember, if you sell her and she turns out to be good, and I think she could be good barring any injury, will you be able to live with that the rest of your life?’ I said, ‘We’re not selling her.’ That’s when the whole plan was put together to keep her in New York. She enjoys the winter and the cold weather, and I love Aqueduct, so that was the plan.”

If there is one thing that is endearing about Princess of Sylmar it is the affection people have for her, especially those who have been close to her.

“She’s always had such a great temperament,” Betsy Houghton said. “Nothing at all bothered her and she was just a happy filly all the time. Every time we worked her she would go better than the horse she was working with. We would notice, when they came around the turn, the boy on her workmate would be riding his horse and the boy on Princess of Sylmar would be sitting still in order for them to stay together, because Ronnie doesn’t like the babies beating each other.”

Chris Marsh has been the Houghton’s farrier for 34 years and represented the farm at Belmont Saturday.

“She was a piece of cake to work with; real classy and calm,” he said. “She acted like an older horse even when she was 2-year-old.”

Equine therapist Carol Seaver knows Princess of Sylmar as well as anyone, working on her once or twice a week and every day leading up to a big race. Seaver loves watching her antics of throwing her alfalfa out of the feed bin, flinging it several feet away.

“She’ll toss her food out and then just stand there and wait for people to pick it up,” Seaver said. “Everybody knows to accept it and they’ll just pick it up as they walk by. She waits and watches and after they put it back she throws it out again. She’s very affectionate and so great to work with. You know how a mare will embrace their foal by turning their neck around and pulling them close? She’ll do that when I’m working on her. She’s just fun to be around, because she’s so sweet and intelligent.”

After the Beldame, the dirt smudges on Stanco’s shirt collar and jacket lapel were quite noticeable, the result of the close contact he had with his filly and the affection he had lavished on her in the winner’s circle.

“She got me,” he said. “But that’s all right, I’ll gladly wear that.” 

Todd Pletcher will be a lot more relaxed and happy in about 8 minutes

The outpouring of emotion following the Beldame

Just in case Ed Stanco wants to know how his shirt collar and jacket got smudged with dirt

The rejoicing continues in the winner's circle

Ed Stanco arranges with "Princess's #1 fan" Averie Elizabeth to meet after the races

Next four show off her personality. Here, Joan feeds her a carrot

Now what?

Princess reaches way down to the bottom of her feed tub

Then flings out her alfalfa as far as she can


Leave a Comment:

The Deacon

It can argued that if Princess of Sylmar runs in the Ladies Distaff and wins it she should get serious consideration for HOTY.

That'll be 5 Grade 1's this year unless I forgot some........she reminds me a little of Blind Luck.

Blind Luck was awesome, she traveled and ran everywhere,  raced her heart out until there was no more to give.

30 Sep 2013 9:39 PM

Personally, I think the filly has nothing left to prove.  Put her up; give her a nice winter break, and bring her back bigger and stronger next year so that her owner and fans can enjoy her all over again.

30 Sep 2013 10:21 PM

Great article.Was there Saturday.An amazing race to see in person.A hypothetical question.Lets say they rest The Princess and put her in The Cigar Mile  to avoid the travel at the end of November,Game On Dude falters in the Classic and Wise Dan loses his Breeders Cup Mile and Princess wins the Cigar.Is she then HOY?

30 Sep 2013 10:36 PM

HOTY is tempting, but hope that Stanco resists that temptation and rests Princess of Sylmar till 2014. Think I read somewhere that fillies have a tendency to burn out faster than colts.

Thanks for the great photographs of The Princess, Steve.

30 Sep 2013 10:45 PM

Thank you for the wonderful story and photos of Princess.  I can't seem to get enough of her. Her Beldame as she overcame Royal Delta brought back the thrill I had when Rags to Riches came four wide and then went past Curlin for the Belmont victory. She really is something else. And like Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra before her, she and her connections are what the sport needs. Can't wait until 2014!

30 Sep 2013 10:51 PM
Bloodline Bob

Steve, let me tell you my Princess of Sylmar story. I was in my reserved seat #611 at Mohegan Sun Racebook like every Ky. Derby week. In the Ky. Oaks, I bet $20WPS on the Princess, $2 exacta box + $1 trifecta box #2,#3,#4,#6,#8=$100, $2 Oaks-Derby Double Princess with all=$40, $2 Oaks-Derby Double all with Golden Soul=$20, $20WPS on Golden Soul in the Derby. I don't play Superfecta's but if I did I would of hit that too. Well, cashed in my W2G's + other tix for $4,893.40. My theory of "I went to the wedding but I don't want to go the funeral" on making a big hit on a horse like the Princess. I have NOT bet her since. I selected her because I was a fan of her father Majestic Warrior(late George Steinbrenner). I'm going to Santa Anita in a month and if she's in the BC, I'm still not going to bet her.

01 Oct 2013 6:13 AM

POS is a very nice filly,it will be interesting to see what she turns into next year,i agree with the owners she deserves a rest if they are going to run her at 4.If i may go off topic for a moment Steve,i watch lots of race replays and it has become apparent to me that with the shorter crops in use today the horses get hit right on the stifle joint if not the belly rather than on the rump,shurley this can't be making racehorses run faster i see this over and over,sorry i can think of nowhere to post this however what is your opinion.  

01 Oct 2013 7:36 AM
Proud Acres

I absolutely love these filly's.  I feel that this girl has done enough for horse of the year.  Selfishly, I want to see her come to the breeders cup.  I would like to see her give the distaff a chance.  But, I know they will do what is best for her.  That is more important.  I just wish her well.  Keep her safe.

01 Oct 2013 8:40 AM
Pedigree Ann

"the Beldame, which used to be the championship race, along with possibly the Spinster -"

Surely, Steve, you haven't forgotten the G1 Ladies' H at Aqueduct. It was run at about the same time as the Distaff is now, which is why it is no longer run.

01 Oct 2013 8:53 AM

Great horse.

She won for fun Saturday and I hope she stays at her peak form.

What a Overlay on the Oaks,man that one got away..

01 Oct 2013 9:40 AM

It is wonderful to see Mr. Stanco & all the connections of this filly putting her health & well being above the prestige and "bottom line".  When the Princess passed Royal Delta and pulled away, my jaw dropped & I realized I was watching a superstar.  She has given quite a bit to her fans and the sport this year. Sending her to the BC is obviously appealing, but I agree that it may not be in the filly's best interest.  She has a bright future ahead of her so long as she is handled properly.  There will be other Distaff's in her future, but not this one.  She is still young & growing, physically and mentally.  The sport has seen too many animals raced too much, too soon only to never return to form the following season.  Just my opinion, and I would hate to see her injured or worse-lose her heart due to an overly aggressive 3 year old campaign.  I vote to turn her out and let her be a horse until next year. Mr. Stanco has shown that he is putting the horse first, and it's a decision that I admire.  She has at least one Eclipse coming her way this year.  Let's see her get many more in the future.

01 Oct 2013 9:42 AM

The ONLY reason she goes to the BC Distaff is a shot at HOTY. But if Wise Dan wins the Mile, he's undefeated this year. If Game On Dude wins the Classic, HOTY might be waiting for him as a "career" award. So, even if she wins the Distaff, she may not get serious HOTY consideration. And, for the person who noted the thrill of seeing Rags to Riches go four wide to (barely) beat Curlin in the Belmont, remember what happened to her (and to him) after that race. At times like this, my mind always races back to Ruffian. Brokers like to say "Bulls make money and bears make money, but pigs get slaughtered." Is an outside shot at HOTY worth tempting fate?

01 Oct 2013 9:55 AM

Thank you, Steve, for another informative behind-the-scenes story to bring us closer to the majestic horses we love to watch in the races - at the track or on the screen.  I'm always so appreciative of the background information you provide on the connections and I must admit I am quite impressed with Mr. Stanco in his love of the horse!  It really does seem like it is about the horse and not about the money - how cool is that!!  The photos of Joan with Princess are beautiful too and shows her fun and loving personality and I'm so grateful you have chosen to share Princess of Sylmar with us in this blog.  She has done so much this year, accomplished a great deal for a three year old and held up under all the stress which cannot be said for the three year old colts.  My heart would prefer that she gets a break and comes back gangbusters next year - she deserves a rest.  I'm not a fan of running three year old fillies until they are gutted out just so connections can claim huge bragging rights.  It is about the horse.

01 Oct 2013 10:00 AM
steve from st louis

I can't imagine how the Houghton's feel. They raised and were touched by her for just a short time and then just as quickly, she's gone, dancing in someone else's arms. I can imagine their pride, but they're unlikely to ever have anything close to that filly again. They're back in the claiming ranks where they've toiled for years and I guess they can say they were once on top of the world however fleeting. Seems joyful and sad at the same time to me.

01 Oct 2013 10:03 AM

I hope Princess of Sylmar's connections stick with their plan.  They had her ready to beat Royal Delta and she did. I hate to see her miss the Breeder's Cup and all that it could mean, but I really hate the idea of squeezing the lemon dry and seeing her destroyed like Rachel Alexandra.

01 Oct 2013 10:31 AM

Thank you Steve once again for a wonderful article with such interesting info and great pics. After reading the stats I would worry about running her in the Distaff.  I think they should rest her up for next year. What a wonderful job Team Princess has done.Racing does need more stories like this. And I do believe that there is sometimes excessive whipping.Would you want to do something if you got a beating while doing it? Sometimes you can see where the horse flinches and there is a slight hesitation. Thank you Datflippinrabbit for your observation.

01 Oct 2013 10:43 AM
Steve Haskin

Steve, why would you feed sorry for the Houghtons? They merely foaled and raised her for Stanco. She was never their horse, nor is the dam. They're thrilled to just be a part of it.

Pedigree Ann, you're not really comparing the Beldame to the Ladies Handicap as a championship race are you?

01 Oct 2013 11:01 AM
Kris Marshall

Most people posting on this site seem to be of the opinion that horses, especially fillies, should be rested, or even retired after a moderate campaign.  I think she should run in the Breeder's Cup, just not in the Distaff.  The brass ring is in the Classic; she can win it.  The pace scenario points to a closer.  I think she is the best one out there.

01 Oct 2013 11:14 AM

You know the prize money is always welcome but believe me you will race her for no money just the enjoyment of seeing your filly accomplished such an extraordinary effort beating such a distinguished rival.Those days are for the memory to keep as long as you live.Congratulations to all the connections.

01 Oct 2013 11:24 AM
Love 'em all

Aye, aye Capt. Stanco!  Drop the anchor it shall be!  "The Princess" shall be kept happily "winterized" ... and deservedly so.  Cheers to Princess of Sylmar ... her 'passengers' will gladly wait patiently ... for more 'magical rides'.  

Time for peace and quiet for the lovely "Princess" ... and many, many cheers to Ed Stanco!

The pictures are great, Mr. Haskin.  What a happy bunch of folks with a very happy horse!  

01 Oct 2013 11:50 AM
steve from st louis

Steve, maybe I'm looking at it all wrong but it's as if Stanco gave them some money to go buy some lottery tickets for him.  They did, hit the jackpot and turned the winnings over to him.

A cousin of mine was a surrogate mother for her sister-in-law. The child, Elizabeth, is now 13. Maybe that's the closest analogy I'm grasping for. Of course the Houghtons are thrilled for the success of the filly but probably somewhat melancholy at the same time.

01 Oct 2013 12:03 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, wonderful article!! I really enjoyed this very much. I am a fan of the girls, including Royal Delta, for obvious reasons. POS is very special indeed and apparently a sweetheart in the Zenyatta mold. I think they have handled POS very well and I do not think running her in the distaff is a bad idea if she is training well. It would not be a bridge too far scenario. But I do agree that they have to handle her carefully if they want to extend the life of her career. It is a fine line that people like John Shirreffs walked so well. I am sure Todd Pletcher will do the same. By the way, I loved the picture of one beautiful lady feeding a carrot to another beautiful lady. You need to take Joan on more of these trips Steve.

01 Oct 2013 12:44 PM

@Kris: Game On Dude is 5 for 5 this year, it's his home track and he leads the NTRA poll with POS third. Voters aren't even convinced she's better than Wise Dan. It's not about her being a filly; it's just that GOD and WD are having career years and either likely will be HOTY with a BC win in their respective race. Not necessarily what I'd like to see, but it's the likely voting reality.

01 Oct 2013 1:03 PM
Karen in Indiana

I got goosebumps watching POS win over Royal Delta. Ed Stanco said she had been in training for 18 months, so that 2 1/2 month break I'm assuming that she was still at the track. After watching what happened to Rachel Alexandra after her 3 year old year, I do hope they will follow the plan they've had with POS all along and give her a break. She's done far more than was expected of her, she's earned it and probably needs it, whether she wants it or not. Let her be a horse for a bit, bring her back fresh next year and we will all have something to look forward to.

01 Oct 2013 1:08 PM

The Deacon 30 Sep 2013 9:39 PM

I agree totally that if Princess of Sylmar runs in the BC Distaff and wins she enters the HOTY discussion.

01 Oct 2013 1:48 PM
Sue MacGray

While I (selfishly) would love to see her run in the BC (either distaff or classic), I remember what happened with RA. As a 3-year-old, it couldn't hurt to rest her for the remainder of 2013 and then maybe next year shoot for the BC. She does seem rather in the mold of Z (the way she is with people, etc.), and I'm hoping her owner/trainer continue to put her health first so we all get to enjoy her for at least another year.

01 Oct 2013 2:02 PM
Old Timer

I do not blame the owner one bit if they pass on th BC. That is a long arduous trip and Steve, your stats speak for themselves.

01 Oct 2013 2:24 PM

Wonderful piece.  It was thrilling to see Princess of Sylmar win and defeat Royal Delta.  Maybe its Royal Delta's style of running, but she did not even look like she was trying in the stretch.  In fact it looks like Mike Smith stops riding before the wire.  It's too bad Beholder and Princess of Sylmar will likely not meet again this year.  That is a matchup I would like to see after this weekend's results.  But, Beholder stayed in the barn after her effort in the Kentucky Oaks and Princess of Sylmar won Grade 1 after Grade 1.  So, the 3 year old championship is probably decided. Beholder would have to do something Secretariat fashion to overcome Princess of Sylmar's accomplishments.

Strange and wonderful world horse racing is, in fact, I don't believe it was until she won the CCA Oaks that Princess of Sylmar received respect.

Since the Breeders Cup began, besides the 3 year olds you wrote of above, there has been Lifes Magic, Lady's Secret, Personal Ensign, Tactile, and the ill fated Go For Wand as 3 year old winners of the Beldame.  None of which won the Breeders Cup Distaff in their 3 year old year.  Lifes Magic was 2nd to Princess Rooney, Lady's Secret 2nd to Lifes Magic, Personal Ensign and Tactile did not run, and it took years to enjoy horse racing the same way after the Go For Wand tragedy. However, the first 4 runnings having been run at the 10 furlong distance, Lady's Secret probably wins at the 9 furlong distance.  

01 Oct 2013 3:13 PM

Karen in Indiana

“I got goose bumps watching POS win over Royal Delta”

Did you get goose bumps when Funny Proposition defeated Royal delta in the (G2) Fleur De Lis?  What POS has done was achieved also on 06/15/2013. Royal Delta is known for running sub-par races and then rebounding to win convincingly.

Royal Delta is 5YOs and has made 21 starts with two being in the Dubai against males. She is allowed to run a bad one occasionally. Do not make the mistake that so many make and assume that somehow the results in the Beldame mean POS is a world beater.

01 Oct 2013 3:22 PM

Kris Marshall,

"The brass ring is in the Classic; she can win it."

Has how many 3YO fillies have won the Breeder Cup Classic? It appears that silly season is upon us.

Royal Delta in prime 4YO form avoided the boys in the BCC. Do you believe she could have defeated Fort Larden and MMM?

POS defeated a two times Breeder Cup Distaff winner who avoided the BBC and somehow POS an fly into CA and defeat the like of Game On Dude, Ron The Greek MMM, Palace Malice, Will Take Charge and the foreigners that will show up.

The great Zenyatta in prime 4YO form avoided the boys in the BCC and you want 3YO, POS to take them on. I gather she will just run by them as she has done in all races.

This is another classic example of an emotionally driven statement.

Keep it real!

01 Oct 2013 3:39 PM

Game on Dude is undefeat this year 3 G1 wins and all against an open company and he does not get the credit he so deserve.

Here is the filly never beat any male in open company and all of the sudden somebody said she should be in the picture of HOY.

Get Real peoples!!!!!!!!!

01 Oct 2013 3:48 PM

I say we invent a new award called the Grand Slam for 3y old fillies.

We just saw the first one to win it, Ky Oaks, CCA Oaks, Alabama and Beldame.  I know it is selfish,but sure would like to see her run in the Distaff.  Not all horses react the same.  Of course it is up to the owner and Good Luck in what ever he decides.

01 Oct 2013 4:14 PM

I would love to see her run in the Distaff ... win ... and then definitely, there's no way she can't get consideration for HOY.

She's really in the groove right now.  Unfortunately, no certainty next year.

Still, congratulations to the connections no matter what!

01 Oct 2013 4:17 PM

POS has done very well since her upset victory in the KY Oaks. There are four top class fillies that she has not faced since that upset victory. They are Midnight Lucky, Beholder, Dreaming Of Julia and Close Hatches. It should be noted that of the four, only Beholder and Unlimited Budget ran to expectation in the KY Oaks. The Churchill Down's surface is disliked by many top horse. All the four fillies below have returned with improved efforts.

I recognize that the fans of POS will readily state that the four below have been avoiding her. A reasonable view but not necessary correct.

What have they done since the KY Oaks?

Beholder: 1st in the Torrey Pines and Zenyatta (G1)

Dreaming Of Julia: 2nd Mother Goose

Close Hatches: 2nd Acorn (G1) 1st (G1) Mother Goose; 1st (G1) Cotillion

Midnight Lucky: 1st (G1) Acorn.

Close Hatches defeated POS in the (G2) Gazelle. POS returned to defeat her in the Oaks. They have not met since. She has won 2 (G1) since her dismal 7th place finish in the Oaks.

Beholder has been undefeated since her 2nd place finish in the Oaks and looks much improve in winning the Zenyatta. She has home court advantage in the Distaff.

Dreaming Of Julia has raced once since her 4th place finish in the Oaks finishing 2nd in the Mother Goose.

Midnight Lucky has raced once since her 5th place finish in the Oaks. She won the (G2) Gazelle.

The above fillies are very good. Apart from Royal Delta, POS has defeated My Happy Face and Fiftyshadesofhay.  How many of the above fillies could have defeated My Happy Face and Fiftyshadesofhay? Neither My Happy Face nor Fiftyshadesofhay were considered good enough to make the Oaks field.

If Funny Proposition who is an allowance winner could have defeated Royal Delta on her off day in the (G2) Fleus De Lis, any of the four fillies above could have done the same.

POS is a very nice filly but she is not a lock for the Breeder Cup Distaff should she be entered. There is also no guarantee that she will be able to dominate the 4YO female division against horse that she defeated once on a surface many horses dislike.

01 Oct 2013 4:31 PM
Karen in Indiana

Coldfacts, I'm well aware that Royal Delta was not running in top form - for her, this was a prep race. Someone else has already pointed out that it looked like Mike Smith quit race riding her on the stretch. But look at the size difference between the two horses and it wasn't like POS was being hard ridden. The time of the race was also comparable to the times in the Mile and the Jockey Club Gold Cup so she was running a good race. FYI, I was also a passionate Zenyatta fan. Nothing wrong with emotions in horse racing.

01 Oct 2013 5:06 PM

Steve, watching Princes of Sylmar progress from race to race has been a wonderful experience. In this day and age it is not often you see a horse trained/managed so well.

I believe when Princess of Sylmar passed the magnificent Royal Delta all expectations were realised. There is no more to prove, as you wrote - time to drop the anchor for the year. A wonderful story for everyone who love the beautiful sport of horse racing.

01 Oct 2013 5:25 PM
Old Timer

Steve, correct me if wrong, but the Ladies Handicap was indeed a classic race for the f. & mares back 30 or 40 years ago. Didn't the likes of Cicada win it? I fully agree that today it is but a shadow of its former place in the stakes calendar. I believe that it might be a grade 3 or less on the Big A's inner track now.

01 Oct 2013 5:33 PM
Steve Haskin

Old Timer, yes, the Ladies Handicap was a much more important race then than it is now, but it was never the championship deciding race. That was the Beldame, which was the equivalent of the Woodward. Championships back then were decided in late September and later in early October before the BC. Never decided in November. The Ladies was more icing on the cake than anything else.

01 Oct 2013 5:44 PM


Again, a terrific article. And you're so right re. the Beldame. I remember one of the greatest races for fillies and mares -- of all time -- occurred in the 1965 Beldame. You had older champions, Tosmah, Affectionately, and Straight Deal, the multiple SW Miss Cavandish and Steeple Jill -- and the 3-y-o What a Treat. What a Treat won this thriller -- in the most star-studded field ever, and cemented a championship in victory.

01 Oct 2013 7:01 PM

I agree. Give her a few months at the spa! Come back in 2014.

01 Oct 2013 7:05 PM

Kris Marshall:

I agree with you. The connections ought to take a shot at the Classic.

She has already shown that she can beat the females.

Funny, but Europeans have few qualms about sending 3yo fillies against the older set, male and female.

I like the filly Treve in the ARC this weekend. I will bet on her if she is drawn inside.

It is horse-racing. You enter and take your chance. Life goes on if the horse loses.

01 Oct 2013 7:13 PM
Bloodline Bob

Mike Smith did not ask Royal Delta in the stretch, I think, because he wanted her to go all out in the BC race in November. Reminded me of his 2005 ride on Giacomo in the SA Derby(4th) + then Mike let her loose in the Churchill stretch of the KY. Derby(1st). Mike Smith is going to have a couple of big paydays on Nov. 1 + 2 in the 30th Breeders Cup@ Santa Anita.

01 Oct 2013 8:11 PM

Yes Life DOES go on, BUT if Mr. Stanco doens't want to run this lovely 3 yr old in the BC...then so be it....they'll be another one NEXT year.   I for one am glad that the Princess' connections are looking out for HER welfare and not worrying about shipping across the country to run in the BC.   She's done more than enough to be in the history books NOW and she's only a 3 yr old!  

01 Oct 2013 8:32 PM
Kris Marshall

Coldfacts, look up Jolypha, possibly the only 3YO filly to try the race.  She finished third after crossing the Atlantic and running on dirt.  Fillies, even 3YOs, running against older males would hardly be worth a mention in most other racing jurisdictions.  You know, they're not carnivorous.

01 Oct 2013 8:53 PM
Paula Higgins

I do not think racing POS in the distaff would do her in for next season. I probably would not race POS in the classic if they are going for year 4, which they are. On the other hand, I might race Royal Delta in the classic. If Wise Dan's connections decided to go in the classic, I would not put any of the girls in the classic. The distaff should be one amazing race this year if all the top tier girls show up. derbylin, I like your idea of a Grand Slam or Triple Crown just for the girls. I think the chances of any girl winning the Triple Crown is very unlikely when running against boys in races that close together. So why not something just for the girls?

01 Oct 2013 8:58 PM
Charlie Pigg

Great article, Steve. .as always. I was pulling for Princess of Sylmar almost as much as for Palace Malice Saturday.  What a great performance by the marvelous filly. I've been fortunate to be around her a lot this year. And to visit with Ed Stanko and his people a few times. They are really outstanding folks.  And I was especially lucky to be there Saturday evening when he brought Averie and her an her father to the barn to visit Princess.  These are the wonderful things that greatly enhance the experiences of being involved with these gallant horses. Thanks for your wonderful background stories.

01 Oct 2013 9:39 PM
Greg R

Princess and her folks have already gone above and beyond by running against older fillies and mares in the Beldame, after they had considered stopping with the Alabama.  She has already gone the extra mile... (and an eighth)!

I thought beforehand that this was the time to try Royal Delta, while Princess was still in top form and Delta might not be wound up all the way, since Mott wants her to peak at the Breeder's Cup and probably thought she was good enough to win the Beldame even if she wasn't 100% race-tight.  

I've said before that Royal Delta, though extremely talented, is inconsistent.  She also seems to weaken late in many of her races, even when she wins.  I've never shared the notion that she belongs in the ten-furlong Classic, especially in a year when there is so much speed in the elite handicap division.

Three cheers for Princess.  Even if she had finished second to her elder, she'd have lost nothing in defeat and possibly even gained a little lustre, if she made it close.  But drawing away by daylight?  Who'd have thunk?!

01 Oct 2013 11:37 PM
The Deacon

I said that if Princess of Sylmar runs and wins the Ladies Distaff she should be in the conversation for HOTY mention. A few of you agreed with that statement, many of you did not. That's your opinion, be that as it may. But consider this. If Wise Dan and Game on Dude both lose then it is NOT inconceivable that the Princess could get some serious mention. Didn't Azeri a few years back win horse of the year and I  don't remember her beating the boys.

I didn't compare the Princess to Rachel or Big Z (and no one should), I just feel that her campaign has been pretty special.

One last point, maybe it's me but I thought Royal Delta looked like a tired horse at the 8th pole.

She has had a rigid campaign and I hope she doesn't end up like Blind Luck or Life at Ten. Hopefully I am wrong.........

02 Oct 2013 3:45 AM

Greg R,

" Even if she had finish second to her elder, she'd have lost nothing in defeat and possibly even gained a little lustre, if she made it close."

So what you saying, even she loose to RD, and Beholder win in the Breeders'Cup Distaff,do you think Princess still be crown 3 yo champ.

Just wondering.

02 Oct 2013 10:18 AM

I will never understand for the life of me how anyone can call Royal Delta inconsistent when she has 12 wins, five seconds, and a third in 21 career starts!  And two of the only three off-the-board finishes were in fool-hardy attempts in the DWC!  Her ONLY other truly bad race was at quirky Tampa Bay Downs in her 2nd or 3rd career start when she wasn't yet even remotely what she has become!

Does a mare like her HAVE to win every single start to be labeled "consistent"?

Honestly, the way some people talk, you'd think she'd been a money-burner all of her life.  I'm sorry....I'm probably over-reacting, but I'm really getting tired of folk calling Royal Delta "inconsistent" and "unreliable".  It just makes me crazy!

There.....rant over.  Carry on! :-)

02 Oct 2013 10:57 AM
Pedigree Ann

In the past, there was a SERIES of races in the fall that decided championships, both for males and females. The Beldame was part of the gals' series, but so were the Spinster and the Ladies. And, when the Beldame was the October 10f race at Belmont (1977-1989, no longer run since stakes horses need 6 weeks between races these days, or so we are told), so was the Ruffian S at 9f.

Just like in golf, winning the Masters or PGA or Open is a major feather in the cap, but doesn't guarantee you are the best golfer of the year. But winning all three does. Odd things can happen in a single horse race, like Cross Traffic misses the break and is last early. Only with a series of top-class races can you tease out who is really the best horse.

02 Oct 2013 11:00 AM

It's hard for me to see someone dropping the anchor on a horse that appears to be running like a freight train in full gear, especially with the breeders cup right around the corner. Not that the princess has anything to prove or that winning the Ladies Distaff would define her as a champion. A year is a long time in the life of a thoroughbred, an instant can change the future of a race horse. Sure, they can set their sights on 2014, but for many horses, next year never comes. The princess is brilliant today, this is her time. How she will run as a 4 year old is yet to be seen. Rachel Alexandra was phenomenal as a 3 year old, but lost some of that magic when she returned as a 4 year old. It happens, no shame in it. I'm not suggesting running any horse into a state of burn out, but I think the princess would give some indication if that were going to happen. If this wonderful filly wants to run, let her run. I'm looking forward to seeing her at the BC and hope they don't decide to drop the anchor just yet.

02 Oct 2013 12:58 PM

I hate the way things ended for Rachel.  Let her rest, keep her happy, continue to develop.  Maybe we should say give her the treatment Hal Wiggins would've given Rachel had he kept her & let the chips fall where they may.

02 Oct 2013 1:54 PM
steve from st louis

These gorgeous animals run for our pleasure and it seems the majority of fans are gettting a real kick out of seeing the little Princess stretch her legs and run past her  Royal Highness. I've seen enough to toast them both all winter. They look different but their hearts are very similar. Here's to 2014!

02 Oct 2013 2:49 PM


Game On Dude is definitely a part of the HOTY discussion right now but reality will hit you once the Breeder's Cup classic is run my friend. I just read that Cross Traffic is injured and out but Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man will show no mercy, not to mention a rejuvinated Ron The Greek. enjoy your  dream for the moment.

JerseyBoy 01 Oct 2013 7:13 PM

In this Sunday's Arc de Triomphe that filly Treve does have a great shot but I'm taking Ruler of The World (liked his prep race) over the Japanese horse Orfevre. Good luck.

02 Oct 2013 4:24 PM

I believe that Princess of Sylmar's connections will be able to accurately assess their horse's condition and fitness and then use this information to make the decision whether or not to run her in the Ladies Distaff or in any other races in 2013. The health and welfare of this filly should be the only consideration.

PomDe Terre, are you from Missouri? We go boating on a beautiful lake with the same name there.

02 Oct 2013 6:07 PM
Greg R

Signal:  Yes, even if Beholder wins the Distaff, I don't think she has done enough to outweigh what P O S has accomplished.  Remember, after the Alabama, most people were saying that P O S had likely clinched the 3-yr-old filly Eclipse.  Now, she has capped off her season with an extra Gr I, while outrunning the top older mare in the country.

Paseana:  Be not vexed.  Consider, however, how many of R D's losses have come when she was favored.  I'm not comparing her outstanding record to those of any old run-of-the-mill distaffers.  I'm comparing her record to fans' lofty expectations, which have tended to be excessive.  And, since she started preferring the front end, she's made herself more vulnerable with that running style.  She may well rebound with a triumph in the Distaff ; she is certainly capable.  I would never in a million years put her in the Classic at 1 1/4, a la Havre de Grace or Zenyatta.

03 Oct 2013 12:50 AM
Pedigree Ann


It is never a surprise when an entire son of Unbridle's Song is injured. And remember, this is a horse with only one major win to his credit.

03 Oct 2013 9:17 AM

Greg R,

" Now, she has capped off her season with an extra Gr1, while outrunning the top older mare in the country."

Royal Delta looks like a very tired horse, and i think Beholder will beat her fair and square too.

at the end of the season she will have won 5 Gr1 inlude the second Breeder's cup, and yet Beholder is not even good enough to compare to a filly that never win one cup.

That's call " Hype & Emotional "

03 Oct 2013 9:25 AM


You are the Game on Dude hater or should I say very jalousy that you do not own a horse like him.

Kepp troting, first your super horse Verazano gonna thump GOD,

then prove that's was all hype,

remember at the time that you hyped on him, I challenge you to bet head on in which you refused,

then after you see Verazano was just an everage horse then you change to hype on Successful Dan will be the horse to beat GOD,

now Mucho Macho Man ran one good race and beat the lesser horse, all of the sudden he is your new star, your are a great monday quarterback.

Game on Dude would be very salty on the big day, just watch.

I responded to you all this because you direct the quote direct to me, I already decided not to pay attention to your opinions since I found that you are not as knowledge as many people in here.

03 Oct 2013 9:46 AM

Kris Marshall,

I am aware of USA bred and French raced Jolypha's 3rd place finish in the BCC. However, my question was how many 3YO fillies have won the BCC? The answer is none.

Royal Delta was defeated in June by a mare that is an allowance race winner. Clearly POS is much better than that mare and she likewise defeated Royal Delta.

You should not forget that in  POS's two victories' preceding the Beldame the fillies that finished second to her were not good enough to make the Oaks field.

Taking all of the above in context, do you seriously believe she is good enough to beat older mares?

03 Oct 2013 11:52 AM


Take it easy buddy ...I dont hate any horse, never did, never will.  Sorry to hurt your feelings by not touting the "Dude" for HOTY.  He's undoubtedly a top class horse and one of the most consistent ones in recent times to carry top level performance over three straight seasons.  However, in reality he's kindof a one-trick pony, in that he has to break on top and control the pace against inferior opposition to score.  We've all seen him been outrun to the wire several times whenever the competion is really tough so don't call me a hater for not being a believer.

Personally I don't see him winning the Breeder's Cup Classic if his serious competitors, Fort Larned, Mucho Macho Man and Ron The Greek report on top of their game.  In fact I'd even fancy his stablemate Paynter to be the real dark horse coming into the Classic. I believe that he too will get the better of the "Dude" on the big day. We'll see who's emotional at the end of the day.  Peace.    

03 Oct 2013 3:22 PM
The Deacon

Ranagulzion:  I certainly can understand why you feel the way you do about Game on Dude. In my heart I believe this year may be different. He seems to do better when he has had ample time to recover. He loves the Santa Anita track and I do not think the 3 year olds will even hit the board. Cross Traffic is out as well. Is Paynter the same horse as he was before the laminitis fiasco.

Fort Larned, Ron the Greek, Mucho Macho Man, Flat Out or whoever comes west from the handicap division are mostly geldings and have run hot and cold all year.

God is very sharp right now and if my rememberer serves me Native Diver always had to have the lead in a race as have many others. It's just their style.

He did finish 2nd with Chantal Sutherland aboard to Drosselmeyer so I know he is good enough.

Personally, I think it is his time and he rates real well for Mike Smith.  

03 Oct 2013 7:18 PM

What a diminutive sweet and graceful warrior-princess the Princess of Sylmar is. How wonderful it is her owner cherishes her and wants to do the best for her. She reminds me of Awesome Feather and Lady Secret.

Wouldn't it be cool if she were bred to the King of racing in PA (Smarty Jones) when she retires?

03 Oct 2013 9:39 PM

Kris Marshall,

CORRECTION: "Taking all of the above in context, do you seriously believe she is good enough to beat older MALES?"

04 Oct 2013 4:02 AM

“In fact I'd even fancy his stalemate Paynter to be the real dark horse coming into the Classic.”

If my recollection is correct Paynter had a portion of his intestines removed to address his medical issues. I am not a Veterinarian but from a layman perspective, I hardly believe this horse will be able to win the BCC or any other top race.  

He should have been retired for stud duties. After such a serious illness it’s a shame his owner and trainer have seen it fit to continue his racing career when he has done enough to be an appealing stallion prospect.

04 Oct 2013 4:13 AM

When Zenyatta was being supported for a repeat in the BCC, I cited that no horse older than five had ever won the race. By virtue of this cold fact she had a huge historic hurdle to clear. History will reflect that she lost to the 4YO Blame.

The BCC has been won by horses falling into three age groups:

3YOs - 9

4YOs - 13

5YOs – 7

The likes of Zenyatta, Pleasantly Perfect and Cigar failed to repeat as 6YOs. These horses carried far better credentials than GOD.

Game On Dude contested the BCC for the first time as a 4YO and finished 2nd. He contested the race again as a 5YO and this time despite home court advantage he finished 7th.

He is now 6YO and finds himself in the age group that has never won the race. He had two cracks when he was in two of the dominant age groups and never got the job done. Even his most ardent supporters must come to the realization that his time has already passed.

Not many horses have contested the BCC three times. If my records are correct Perfect Drift contested 4 consecutive BCCs and is most likely the record holder for number of attempts in the race.

He contested the BCC the first time as a 4YO. As cited above 4YOs dominate the race. He finished 6th. In his attempt as 5YO he finished 4th; as a 6YO he finished 3rd and as a 7YO he finished 8th.

Flat Out, Ron The Greek and Game On Dude are in the age group that has never won the classic. Based on historic data they can be safely eliminated from the top spot. The focus should be on horses from the categories that have dominated the race since its inauguration.

04 Oct 2013 5:16 AM

Coldfacts 04 Oct 2013 4:13 AM

Paynter chased Mucho Macho Man in the Awesome Again like a perfectly healthy horse that's rounding into his best form. He'll surprise you in the Breeder's Cup classic.

I do find your angle of analysis re: age of BCC winners interesting but think that the pattern can be broken if the race sets up for a genuine Grade 1, 10 Furlongs veteran like Ron The Greek.

05 Oct 2013 2:15 PM
Tana Rae

Steve....Princess of Sylmar is one of the reasons I follow thoroughbred horse racing.  She and others have given me priceless pleasure.  I, for one, delight in learning about their personalities, their quirks, the little things that say something about them.  You do so well in this capacity.  You observe and report the subtleties of a horse ( if you've owned one you know what I mean).  Thanks for the article and thanks to Mr. Stanco for keeping the welfare and racing longevity of his princess as a top priority in mind (I hope).

08 Oct 2013 2:59 AM

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