Stanco Won More Than He Lost

Ed Stanco most likely will not have an Eclipse statue on his mantle, or wherever he is displaying his collection of Princess of Sylmar trophies. But that is the only thing he won’t have. What he does have is the respect of everyone in the industry, most notably the fans, Santa Anita, and the Breeders’ Cup.

Stanco, along with trainer Todd Pletcher, stated a while back that Princess of Sylmar would make her last start of the year in the Beldame, and even that was pushing it one step farther than what was originally intended.

We can understand Pletcher wanting to push it one more time. When you’re assembling the Greek army to go to war, you want to make sure you have Achilles leading the charge. Pletcher’s army, as strong as it might have been without the Princess, was infinitely more imposing with her.

But in Stanco’s case, he had no army to back up his Princess. It was all or nothing. She could sit out the battle as originally planned and let history dictate her rightful place among the greats or she could risk her invincibility by traveling 3,000 miles at the end of a year-long campaign and challenge Beholder on the battlefield on which her only rival to the 3-year-old throne had proven unbeatable. And, of course, there was the Queen of the older mares, Royal Delta, who the Princess had already beaten into submission in the Beldame.

Stanco knew the risks that went along with his decision. But he also knew that a victory by the Princess would catapult her reputation into a stratosphere only a handful have been able to reach. And he knew that racing would benefit from her presence at Santa Anita. He knew the fans would benefit. He knew the Breeders’ Cup and Santa Anita would benefit. He knew her presence would turn an already attractive Friday card into one with historic implications and bring thousands more to the track.

This was horse racing the way the traditionalists remember it, in its purest form. This was the foundation on which the Sport of Kings was built – my horse against your horse, winner take all. There would be no prisoners, just two exceptional fillies on the threshold of greatness fighting for their place in history.

As we all know, it was too much to ask of the Princess. She wasn’t herself before or during the race and had absolutely nothing to give at any point. It was not a case of Beholder beating her. It was a case of her beating herself.

But this column is not about the Princess’ performance and why she ran so poorly. It is about something you rarely see in this sport anymore – sportsmanship. Sure, Stanco thought the Princess could walk on water. He had every right to. This is not the stage on which she was envisioned performing when running around the fields of Pennsylvania as a yearling or competing in her first two starts at Penn National. Winning a grade I stakes at his beloved Saratoga had been a lifelong dream for Stanco, and the Princess wound up winning two of them.

Each step since her early days at frigid Aqueduct back in the dark days of winter had taken her closer to the gates of the pantheon. And now that she was there, Stanco could not bring her back down, wrap her in Styrofoam, and watch the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on TV, wondering ‘What if?’ When you’re on cloud nine and are the toast of Saratoga, having heard the cheers of thousands of appreciative and admiring fans, it’s difficult to come back down to earth.

A guy like Ed Stanco, who has spent most of his racing life with his head buried in past performances and standing in mutuel lines, isn't used to signing autographs and having people come up to him to shake his hand and congratulate him and praise his horse. Right or wrong, he just couldn’t back off now with so much history at stake, and with the Breeders’ Cup and TV analysts and writers all urging him to run for the good of the sport.

With the way Beholder ran over her home track, Stanco’s decision may or may not have cost the Princess an Eclipse Award. But Eclipse winners come and go, some of whom are remembered and some of whom are not. It is important to remember that in the equine categories, these are the only awards in America where the winners would prefer a carrot over the award.

Immediately after the Distaff, Stanco still was upbeat with his head held high and would not second-guess his decision. Later that month at Aqueduct there still was not the slightest sign of remorse.

The place on Stanco’s mantle reserved for an apparent Eclipse Award likely will have to remain vacant...for now. But there will always be the Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks, Alabama Stakes, and Beldame Stakes trophies to occupy his attention. And that vacant spot can always be filled with all the special memories the Princess provided all year, as well as the respect Stanco earned from everyone in the industry and their gratitude. That in many ways is worth more than a statue.


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“What he does have is the respect of everyone in the industry, most notably the fans, Santa Anita, and the Breeders’ Cup.”

I am in total agreement with the above. A sporting venture indeed! More owners like Mr. Stanco are needed in the game. Matching the best against the best is what racing fans crave.

I was never convinced that Princess of Sylmar was deserving of the Eclipse if she avoided Beholder and Close Hatches in the Distaff. Many were of the opinion that I was being my usual harsh self by trivializing the achievements of a popular horse.  That was certainly not objective.

I was prepared to shower Princess of Sylmar with all the accolades she deserved if she performed creditably in the Distaff.  Why wait for the Distaff? Several bits of cold facts:

She defeated Beholder in their only meeting. Beholder had flipped in the paddock and no one knows how that impacted her Oaks performance. In two meetings with Closed Hatches, they shared victories.

Both Beholder and Closed Hatches defeated the fillies Princess of Sylmar defeated in the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama Stakes. It turned out that they also defeated Royal Delta. What distinguished Princess of Sylmar from the two aforementioned fillies?

Princess of Sylmar had no advantage over Closed Hatches as they shared victories in their two meetings. She had an advantage over Beholder by virtue of a victory in their only meeting. Beholder certainly deserved a rematch and the distaff was the race for championship honors and not the Oaks.

Was Princess of Sylmar a superior filly to Beholder and Closed Hatches?

That question was answered when Mr. Stanco bravely gave his blessings on her participation in the Distaff. I have no doubt that she would have been awarded the Eclipse based on the accolades that were bestowed on her prior to the Distaff.

Mr. Stanco has a brilliant filly of which he should be proud. He did the right thing by entering her in the Distaff and in so doing did not deny two other brilliant fillies an opportunity at the Eclipse.

He is certainly a man of honor.

02 Jan 2014 10:42 PM

If Princess of Sylmar does not win the Eclipse all I will remember is a souped up Santa Anita Race track on a Friday afternoon to favor the local hero.

03 Jan 2014 1:25 AM

This sport is now a breeder's sport rather than the Sport of Kings.  I honestly feel that Mr. Stanco ran Princess Of Sylmar because he knew she hadn't wrapped up the championship, I thought he had no choice but to run her (and win) to secure the championship.  I do hope Mr. Stanco gets a good colt for the Derby.  

" This was the foundation on which the Sport of Kings was built – my horse against your horse, winner take all. "

I'm hoping that the new Kentucky Derby points system will allow us to see more of this, connections taking on the best of the best, not at the end of the year, but throughout the year.

Looking at the Jerome for this weekend, I'm liking Chad Brown's horse here.  I'm hoping he'll take to the track switch, I think Laurel's dirt track is deeper than Aqueduct.  I also like Master Lightning to complete the trifecta.

03 Jan 2014 1:43 AM

I still feel this was more about him, than the horse.  I think the thought of the fame it would bring was too much for this man to pass up...

03 Jan 2014 6:54 AM
Pedigree Ann

As the track was configured on Friday of the Breeders' Cup meeting, Princess of Sylmar had no chance coming from behind. Horses who were not within a couple lengths of the lead were toast in all races that day except the Marathon, wherein most of our horses showed they aren't suited to and/or properly trained for the distance. Princess of Sylmar lost no caste in my eyes from her valiant struggle against the track conditions.

03 Jan 2014 9:14 AM

Steve.....Thank you, as always, for sharing a story of one of the true good guys of our sport. Ed Stanco enjoyed a ride for the ages in 2013 and gave back to the fans and the sport he loves, by bringing his champion filly west. A move only a "True Sportsman" would endorse.

It wasn't that long ago when great horses ran frequently against each other.  Somehow we've transformed into a culture where if you run your best and don't win, it's a tragedy.  No one would ever doubt Royal Delta's heart, even though she lost her last two races of 2013.  Somehow we've lost the sense that it's okay to run your best and not bring home the hardware.  This year's Distaff might go down as one of the deepest, most talented groups ever assembled.... in large part thanks to Ed Stanco!!

03 Jan 2014 10:40 AM
Linda in Texas

JayJay sums up my feelings with his statement:

"This is the foundation on which The Sport of Kings was built - my horse against your horse, winner take all." And i can just picture those words being uttered between 2 salty proud owners as they looked at their handsome steeds and raced them in an open field with no gates nor grandstands, back in the day!

Mention of the 'configuration of the track' at Santa Anita during the Breeder's Cup Races on Friday bothered me then and still does today.

Thanks Steve, nice insight. And to your article i read that Eddie Plesa is priming Itsmyluckyday for his 4 year old campaign. You know me, i love anything with the name "Luck" in it so i am in line to cheer for him once again in 2014.

03 Jan 2014 10:43 AM

I agree with Pedigree Ann, SA was very speed favoring on Friday which gave Princess zero chance. I love Beholder, but she took 4 months off while Princess was running in G1s. Both have 4 G1 wins, both finished 2nd in G2. This is one year that wish there could be a tie to reward both wonderful fillies. Mr Stanco is high class and sporting for taking his Filly out to SA when should have left her at home. Of course there are always those who will same fame and greed overrode good sense but we know better. Thanks Steve for the great article and Thanks Mr Stanco for racing your lovely filly. Hoping we get to enjoy more from this nice group as 4YOs and a rivalry similar to Blind Luck and Havre de Grace

03 Jan 2014 10:53 AM
Walk and Work

In my opinion prior to the race she should have stayed home and started her vacation a month earlier.  After then traveling to the West Coast the day before the race and having a first hand look at the racing surface I was shocked.  The Meadowlands harness track seemed to have a more forgiving surface.  I have visited racetracks around the world and while the Santa Anita setting and facility are outstanding, the dirt-crete race track itself was frightening to me.  While I am not a fan of artificial surfaces, I quickly understood why the state had initiated the prior changeover.  

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the BC races are all that matter to win Eclipse awards.  With this in mind, while Santa Anita is a perfect setting for the fans and TV audience, it is the absolute opposite for the horses.  As much as I enjoyed the 80 degree sunshine and zero humidity, I felt terribly bad for the two horses who broke down on the track during the week and their owners.  Fortunately The Princess only stumbled and came home safely.  

03 Jan 2014 11:51 AM
Storm Catwoman


Nice article as always and a happy new year to you! I applaud Mr. Stanco's sportsmanship and I know he is proud of Princess of Sylmar's championship-worthy accomplishments in 2013. I just hope the next time she meets Beholder it's on a fair track outside of California.

03 Jan 2014 12:09 PM
Proud Acres

I cannot think that Princess of Sylmar has necessarily lost her division.  I know Beholder is a very nice filly but instead of stating that she lost the Breeders Cup so therefore lost the championship, lets take a look at what both fillies did and really compare.  Did Princess do more than Beholder for the entire year?  One race does not always make the champion.  She was gallant to the end in my mind.  Now bear in mind that I adore Beholder also, but, is the Breeders Cup loss going to really determine the winner?  I'm not so sure.  Let's wait and see.  

03 Jan 2014 12:43 PM

Great article Steve. I was at the BC and it was clear to me Princess of Sylmar had no zip that day. Even if she did, the track was so biased there is no way she could have closed. Employees at the track were telling me how much material had been removed from the track prior to the prior racing - this was rectified Saturday and it showed in the racing.  Beholder had a great year as well, but for me the BC is a throwout due to the track.

03 Jan 2014 1:16 PM

What a beautiful, respectful, knowledgable article.  Hats off to "the Princess".  She's an outstanding individual handled by wonderful people.

03 Jan 2014 1:17 PM

LiT : I was hoping to picture those words uttered in a group of owners, all having the top colts and having drinks and cigars and actually having a good time together.

Of course, having a couple of owners to actually dislike each other isn't so bad either, no harsh words, just trash talk.  It's always good publicity.

Proud Acres : One loss in the BC doesn't determine championship, but winning it against the same horses contending for the championship will (or should.)  I thought Beholder, Closed Hatches and Princess Of Sylmar were pretty much even going into the Distaff, with Princess having a slight edge and with Beholder beating both and Royal Delta, it sealed the deal for her, but who knows...

03 Jan 2014 2:29 PM

Steve, the tenor of your piece is 'sportsmanship' and possibly the lack of of such in the modern era of racing throughout the world. As most avid followers of racing know, the aim theses days is to win a Group/Grade 1 race with the least resistance (competition) the better. That's logical, if nothing else.

For me, I can not see how a filly that has won 3 of the most prestigious  Grade 1 races at 3 different race tracks looses championship honors to another filly who wins all her Grade 1 races at her home track. Is this 'sporting?'

It's certainly not good sportsmanship having a track deftly favoring one opponent over another. Mind you, I have seen the same in many other sports - Davis Cup tennis is a prime example that comes to mind. Clay, grass etc

As you say, who remembers Eclipse Award winners anyway but you do remember 'injustices.' If Beholder and Princess of Sylmar were joint champions that would be fine but seeing Princess of Sylmar loose out because: she has raced longer, harder all year, ventured to the opponents home track, runs on that home track which is patently bias, has an equal record with her opponent well, that is not what I thought racing was all about - 'sportsmanship' and fair play.

03 Jan 2014 3:13 PM

I second the accolades to the real horse race lover, Ed Stanco.

And I also agree that one race should not a division make -- IMO the Princess deserves the Eclipse anyways.

03 Jan 2014 4:06 PM

Wonderful piece Steve!  I still think she will get the Eclipse.  In my heart regardless of the BC situation, I just think she is more impressive - nothing against Beholder who is a super filly as well.  But Princess just has a presence.  And Mr. Stanco is a truly great owner and I want to thank him because he gave permission for us to visit Princess at Winstar and we are going to visit her tomorrow. I'm very excited to meet a true champion!  

03 Jan 2014 5:08 PM

Davids (and others who knows the east coast tracks) : I'm not that familiar with "home tracks" in the east coast, with the major tracks being close to one another, what is considered "home track" for the east coast horses ?   From Aqueduct to Saratoga to Belmont, can you let me know which one is Princess' home track ?   East coast horses who travels to the west coast are considered "travelling" but West coast horses who goes to Churchills Downs isn't ?  I just don't understand the reasoning but again, I don't know what is considered a " home track " in the east coast.   Beholder flew to Churchill Downs and ran 2nd, Princess flew to SA and ran last.

I'm not a Princess hater, I'm just being realistic.  The folks voting for the championship will likely give it to Princess anyway but I think Beholder won it fair and square.

03 Jan 2014 6:38 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, this was a much needed article about being a sportsman in every sense of the word. That is what has been missing in this sport for awhile. The exceptions in recent history being the owners of Curlin, Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra(they gave that 4th year a real shot) and Mucho Macho Man. Kudos to Mr. Stanco and all the owners who realize that keeping healthy horses in racing for longer than 3 years is good for the sport. I would be very happy to see the Princess win the Eclipse. I would love to see him go home with it.

03 Jan 2014 10:04 PM

JayJay, I do sympathise with West Coast horses travelling East for the prestigious races at Belmont, Saratoga et al. Of the East tracks, Monmouth Park is probably the closest to Santa Anita in surface.

Let's turn the BC Distaff on it's head - Beholder travels to Belmont Park, the track is so deep that she is caught turning into the straight by Princess of Sylmar and the Princess goes on to win by a widening 7 or so lengths. My East Coast heart may be thrilled to pieces but I would know that the race was totally unfair toward Beholder.

The track bias at Santa Anita was so slanted in favor of Beholder it incensed fair minded observers and diminishes Beholder's achievement in some eyes. Thankfully, the surface was remedied the next day. Subsequently, I still believe Princess of Sylmar deserves the Eclipse.

Princess of Sylmar won a Grade 1 outside of her home state, she defeated Beholder in the Kentucky Oaks on a track that was fair to both horses. Beholder has only won Grade 1 races at Santa Anita, Princess of Sylmar has won Grade1 races at 3 different tracks.

I can not split either filly in quality but I do believe the Princess has done more to deserve the final nod. Peace.

03 Jan 2014 11:22 PM

Davids : It's like you read my mind, I actually had that Belmont scenario in my last post but deleted it because I wanted to see your reply about "home tracks" also answered my question (which is really weirding me out), in that you would see it as unfair to Beholder having to travel to the east coast, I appreciate you saying that.  I don't see (or read) many east coast fans saying the same thing.  In fact, I think you're the first that's ever posted such comment.  My point about that Belmont scenario is that not many would be talking about how unfair it was to Beholder, Princess would be crowned the champion and there would be no more questions asked.  I just feel that Beholder did what was asked of her, she won the G1 races she needed to be a contender and she won the race to determine the champion.  Beholder also beat older horses twice (Zenyatta stakes and Distaff) whereas Princess only beat them once.

Track bias is part of the game, the Distaff was the last race and it was pretty evident before that race that the track was speed biased.  Mr. Stanco could've chosen to scratch her and go with what she has done all year to win the championship but he didn't because I feel that he knew that winning the Distaff is needed to secure the championship.  As Steve said in this column, Mr. Stanco knew the risks and that he never had any remorse about running Princess, he knew the stakes, he knew what she needed to do but she couldn't and he accepted it.  Princess earned even more respect and probably more fans in her loss in the Distaff.

Not to be a nag about the "home track" but I'm seriously and really curious what is considered a "home track" for east coast horses.  A horse that is stabled at Belmont but travels to Saratoga, Aqueduct, Monmouth…are they really considered traveling ?  The longest distance (by car) is 3 hours from Belmont to Saratoga.  Isn't it considered to be their "backyard" when running at those tracks ?

"Princess of Sylmar won a Grade 1 outside of her home state, she defeated Beholder in the Kentucky Oaks on a track that was fair to both horses. "

I'm not sure if that's accurate.  It was a neutral ground for both horses but I don't know if it was fair as far as what the surface was on that day.   Did it favor closers or did it favor speed that day ?  I don't know.

04 Jan 2014 3:15 AM

I have to nitpick some of the comments about the Santa Anita surface on the BC Friday.  

While the track played against Princess of Sylmar, it didn't play towards Beholder.  

Looking at just those two, then yes, since the track played against Princess vis-a-vis Bheolder then it in turn played towards Beholder vis-a-vis Princess. But to really assess how the track affected the two fillies, we must look at it vis-a-vis the rest of the field.

As a stalker/closer, Princess was, at the very least, at a slight disadvantage to the rest of the field in the Distaff.  However, I can't conclude that Beholder was advantaged over the rest of the field, or that the condition of the surface on Friday was some home cooking for the local female star.  Remember, Beholder was 4th when the field crossed the wire the first time, sitting behind and to the outside of Royal Delta, Authenticity, and  Closed Hatches.  On the backstretch, Stevens moved Beholder past Closed Hatches for 3rd, but she wasn't on the lead.  If any horse was really advantaged it was Royal Delta.  Yet Beholder blew by her and Authenticity while barely drawing a deep breath.

04 Jan 2014 5:16 AM

As a fan living in southern California, I am personally very appreciate that Mr. Stanco chose to run Princess in the Distaff.  Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to see her race in person this year.  And it really made that Friday card special, giving the Distaff the feel of past star-studded runnings like in 96', 95', 93', 89', and 88'.

And I'm not sure that Princess' failure in the Distaff will, in and of itself, cost her the Eclipse.  The way Beholder won, she would have attracted a number of voters regardless of what Stanco chose to do with Princess.  

Unlike others, I did not think the Eclipse was decided, and left open the possibility that Princess could lose it if either Beholder or Closed Hatches romped in her absence.  The one way Stanco could have guranteed Princess the Eclipse was by running in and winning the Distaff. Also, keep in mind that Stanco had visions of Horse of the Year, and given how things unfolded, I think Princess could have been able to wrest it from Dan with a Distaff victory.

One key positive of running is that Stanco won't have to worry about that supplemental fee in the future if he wants to give the Breeder's Cup another shot.

04 Jan 2014 5:28 AM

Royal Delta won the 2012 Beldame and then headed west to win the Distaff at SA Park.

The 2013 winner of the Beldame followed the same game plan and finished last and the track bias is to be blamed. An explanation beyond track bias is in order.

The 2010 Beldame was won by Life At Ten. Her next start was in the 2010 Distaff contested at CD. She did not break out of a jog and finished last. What attributed to her poor showing? Probably track bias!  

The 2010 Woodward Stakes G1 was won by Quality Road. His next start was in the 2010 BCC contested at CD. He finished last. What attributed to her poor showing? Probably track bias!

The pattern for horses from what I have repeatedly classified as a High Octane Barn continues? Horses from this barn have repeatedly gone from hero/heroine to zero.

Beholder secured the 2012 Eclipse for Champion 2YO filly. She is not chopped liver. She shipped to CD as the ML favorite for the Oaks. While being saddled, she flipped in the paddock. Despite this incident she finished a close 2nd. POS was a significant underdog in the Oaks as she was not in Beholder’s class.

The Distaff could be viewed as reflecting the class difference between the two. Let me reiterate, Beholder was the Champion 2YO filly for 2012. She merely restored order with her Distaff effort.

To assume that she could not ship to Belmont Park and win is a stretch. Belmont is known to favor speedy types because of its wide turns. Speedy milers have repeatedly destroyed quality closers over 9F at Belmont Park.

To discredit Beholder victory on the basis of a track bias is to be disingenuous.

04 Jan 2014 7:25 AM
lawrence vaccarelli

pedigree ann said...."Princess of Sylmar had no chance coming from behind. Horses who were not within a couple lengths of the lead were toast in all races that day except the Marathon "....NOT TRUE....what about RIA ANTONIA ?....she came from well back.

04 Jan 2014 11:27 AM
Bill Rinker

Thanks for another intriguing article Steve,  Mr. Stanco should be considered a good sportsman regardless of his decision to race in the Breeders Cup. However the Eclipse Award is won by an interpretation based on results, and if you look at the past performances of both Beholder and the Princess you'll most likely be able to determine the out come. It is interesting to note when each filly reached a year of racing and when they got a break, it is also interesting to look closely at each of their race results. Both fillies are deserving of high merit but one seems to have an advantage based on their campaign results. Both trainners are at the top of their field and considered with the best of all time. It was probably necessary for Princess of Sylmar to win the Breeders Cup to validate an Eclipse. However she had just run the race of her career (Beldame) to date and was more than likely in need of a freshening at that point. If I had to rate both fillies on a scale of 1-10 for their accomplishments so far, I would put one at 9.6 and the other at 9.7 . I'm thinking the Eclipse will go to a very derserving Beholder.

04 Jan 2014 2:29 PM

JayJay, home track advantage is generally referring to where a horse trains (is stabled) on the same track that are going to race on. Obviously, when this is expanded to say the Breeders' Cup races, horses stabled at Santa Anita have a gross advantage over East Coast horses who have to ship west - as well, going from cool to hot temperature is not as conducive to optimum performance as going the other way.

All tracks have their 'idiosyncrasies,' again, generally, horses training at Aqueduct or Belmont wouldn't really be too compromised racing on either track. However, a horse training at Saratoga may have a distinct advantage over horses coming from Belmont, Aqueduct when the race is being run at Saratoga.

Churchill Downs, generally, is fair to both speed horses and closers but all tracks can be speeded up or slowed by human or natural intervention.

Beholder is an absolute standout, she did not need the bias at Santa Anita on Breeders' Cup Friday to win the Distaff - the track surface however, did disadvantage horses who come from behind.

Winning the Alabama Stakes, Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks, let alone the Beldame, seals the 3 year old championship in my eyes no matter where the horse trains. Those races are the historic races that breeders/owners have strived to win for centuries and traditionally crown the champion.

It seems an absurdity that one standout filly will miss out on an Eclipse while in some other divisions we are searching for one, let alone three, possible candidates.

04 Jan 2014 2:54 PM

Stanco acted unwisely. Princess of Sylmar should have been entered in the BC Classic. Nevertheless I think that she still deserves the Eclipse award (no disrespect to the brilliant Beholder who used her homecourt advantage well).

04 Jan 2014 6:17 PM

Even with the 20/20 vision of hindsight staring at her dismal BC Distaff no-show, I still believe that Princess of Sylmar, based upon her ccomplishments was positioned to challenge the 'boys' in the BCC, which would have put her out of the reach of Beholder.

Given the change in the track on day 2, I could see her doing what Last Gunfighter did or at worst, finishing ahead of Game on Dude to end all arguments about her right to the Eclipse award. I really hope that she gets it anyway.

04 Jan 2014 10:01 PM

I love Princess of Sylmar.  I definitely think she deserves the Eclipse Award.  If she does not get it then Mr. Stanco and Mr. Pletcher can say to the powers that be, "Are you out of your Alfalfa flingin' minds?"  (Sorry could not resist that one)  But she is the pretty, little chestnut, alfalfa flingin' filly, with a champion's heart and she deserves to win. In a real episode of Mr. Ed, Wilbur did walk in the barn and found Ed shooting an arrow with a bow in his mouth and said to him, "Are you out of your Alfalfa pickin' mind?"

My heart goes out to here to Mike Repole and Todd Pletcher today on the loss of Caixa Eletronica.  What a terrible tragedy losing him in that freak training accident, as well as the other horse involved.  Hope all jockeys are ok.  I can't even imagine the depth of pain these men must feel, and everyone associated with Caixa Eletronica.  It seems surreal and I can't even get my head wrapped around it.  Terrible day for racing, terrible day for Belmont Park, terrible for these two men, one who trained, one who owned, to guide a horse to get to this caliber of racing only to meet its demise is such a senseless way.  I feel my heart is breaking right along with them.

04 Jan 2014 10:18 PM

Davids : Thanks for the thorough explanation of the "home track" for the east coast horses.  I'm not sure where Princess is actually stabled.  

As much as I agree about the historical value of the races you mentioned, the quality of the horses running in those races have very much diminished in the last decade.  I'm not trying to diminish Princess' accomplishments, she won those races and convincingly but you have to admit that the horses she beat in those races are not very accomplished horses except for RD and CH.  It goes the same for the fields that Beholder beat.  It's just how racing is in our generation.  It wouldn't bother me one bit if Princess is crowned the champion, but the way I see it, I think Beholder did what was needed to win the championship.  Track bias or not, I honestly don't think Princess was going to beat Beholder that day the way she ran, but yes, it would've been awesome to see her try.  I hope to see both Princess and Beholder next year, and I hope that Beholder travels east to race on Princess' home track.  It would be a great race and it would be good for the sport.

I understand about the idiosyncrasies of tracks and that's why I said track bias is part of the game.  It shouldn't be used as an excuse for horses losing a race.  Anytime a horse I bet loses because of track condition, I blame myself…because I should've handicapped it better taking into account the condition of the track.   Anyway, it's a pleasure having a discussion with you, thanks.

Ranagulzion : You posted unwisely.

Steve H : Any chance of an early derby dozen ?  I think I got the fever early this year.   I'm anxious to see where Poker Player is...he's the one I'm watching this year.  I'm also keeping an eye on Rise Up and Honor Code, all the talk is Shared Belief who has been impressive lately but I'm waiting to see him run on dirt.

05 Jan 2014 12:48 AM

Quite simple really, Princess of Sylmar went west because of two reasons,poor judgement on behalf of the owner and poor advise greed and horsemanship on behalf of the trainer.She had done enough for a 3yo filly in one season of racing.

05 Jan 2014 10:15 AM

I always aspire to be fair and balance is my evaluation of records. I also try to avoid emotions as they invariably impact negatively on final conclusions.

POS deserves the Eclipse over Beholder.

The only way to settle the matter is to visit the tale of the tape:

POS’S 2013 record prior to Oaks:

1st 1m 70yrds, Busanda; 1st 8.5F, Busher; 2nd 9F,(G2) Gazelle.

Overall record prior Oaks 6 Starts, 4 Wins, 1 Places, 0 Shows. POS did not win a graded stakes prior to the Oaks.

BEHOLDER’S 2013 record prior to Oaks:

2nd 6.5F, (G2)Santa Ynez; 1st 8F, (G1)Las Virgenes; 1st 9F, (G1)Santa Anita Oaks.

Overall record prior Oaks 8 Starts, 5 Wins, 2 Places, 0 Shows. Beholder won three G1 stakes and place in two other graded stakes prior to the Oaks.

There can be no doubt that prior to the Oaks, Beholder had the better résumé.

POS defeated the 2YO Champion by 3/4L in the KY Oaks to record her 1st G1 success. It was their 1st meeting. Beholder had some issue in the paddock but it could not be definitively determined that this caused her defeat.

Who was the better filly after the Oaks? Some would say the victor but Beholder was certainly not vanquished.

Despite Beholder's loss she still had the better résumé.

Post Oaks/Pre Distaff:

POS: 1st Alabama Stakes; 1st Coaching Club American Oaks; 1st Beldame (All G1 stakes),

Beholder: 1st Torrey Pines; 1st Zenyatta G1,

Both fillies went undefeated after the Oaks with POS winning the more prestigious races. However, it should be noted that Beholder won the more prestigious races prior to the Oaks.

They met for the 2nd time in the Distaff and Beholder was the victor on that occasion. In their two meetings, POS defeated Beholder by 3/4L and Beholder defeating POS by a city block.

The 2013 résumés of both fillies reflect four G1 victories. The prestige associated with the G1 races each won can always be debated. However, the most prestigious of the G1 victories went to Beholder.  

True champions show and perform despite the disadvantages and adversities they face. POS showed up but did not perform in the biggest race of her career. Beholder on the other hand gave a dominant performance consistent with that of champion.

Beholder résumé always reflected that she was the better of the two and no amount of spin on POS’s post Oaks record can disprove this cold fact.

05 Jan 2014 10:19 AM

Jay Jay: wisdom is justified by its fruits and it justifies its proponents. I posted before the Breeders Cup that Princess of Sylmar had nothing to gain or prove by running in the Distaff. I also said that she should be pitted against the 'boys' in the Breeders Cup Classic an that it wouldn't matter what Beholder did in the Distaff in terms of threatening her right to the Eclipse Award for champion 3YO filly. A win in the BC Classic would've definitely eclipsed the repeat bid of reigning HOTY, Wise Dan. That idea was very appealing to me and fellow poster Jersey Boy especially in the wake of the French filly Treve blowing away one of the most formidable Arc fields at Longchamp. If you can't see the wisdom of my posts even with the benefit of hindsight ...well, I wish renewed vision for you in this new year. Happy New Year my friend.  

05 Jan 2014 12:02 PM

JayJay, you will find Steve Haskin's blogs always informative and exciting to read, especially now that Derby fever is upon us and the posters are all very knowledgeable with a 'voice' to boot. Makes for an enjoyable meeting ground of opposing views through the love of horse racing/breeding. Thanks for the kind words, I enjoyed the discussion as well.

05 Jan 2014 3:31 PM

“Stanco acted unwisely. Princess of Sylmar should have been entered in the BC Classic.”

It is incomprehensible that anyone would still be questioning the decision to enter POS in the Distaff instead of the BCC. A combination of stubbornness and optical illusion can be the only explanation for the continue maintenance of such a position.

After the running of the BCC, any consideration to enter POS was proven to be ill-conceived. Does anyone seriously believe that POS could have defeated the top 3 finishers in the BCC?

“I still believe that Princess of Sylmar, based upon her accomplishments was positioned to challenge the 'boys' in the BCC, which would have put her out of the reach of Beholder.”

I hope my comments below are not viewed as personal attacks as they are not intended to be.

It could be perceived that there is something sinister about the above position. The position assumes that if POS had bypassed the Distaff for the BCC and finished last, she would still have been the overwhelming favorite for the Eclipse. This is due to the fact that she still had a victory over the eventual Distaff winner Beholder.

What exactly is meant by:-

“which would have put her out of the reach of Beholder.”

By avoiding a rematch with Beholder, POS would have put herself out of her reach. In so doing her 3/4L victory over her in the Oaks would be even more decisive

Beholder’s victory in the Distaff would therefore be meaningless as it would not have been recorded over POS. I hope my assessment is incorrect but that is highly unlikely.

In such a scenario, POS would deserve an Eclipse for bravery for taking on the boys but not for champion 3YO female.

I regard Mr. Stanco a man of honor and the harboring of sinister scenarios that could have been contemplated dishonors his decision to enter the distaff.


06 Jan 2014 11:07 AM

Ranagulzion :  Just like Dreaming of Julia right ?  The horse that would've annihilated the KD field...where is she now ?  I'm still waiting for her to prove you right.  I don't get why you're so into running fillies against the boys.  It takes a special type of filly or mare to run against the boys, I don't feel Princess was one of them.  I also don't think Mr. Stanco believed it either or he would've run her against them or even contemplated running her but I don't think it ever entered his mind and since he's the owner and he knows the horse well and you dont, well...I'd have to say he acted wisely.

Royal Delta was a monster two years ago, she was unstoppable but she couldn't do much against the boys...twice.  I don't understand why you think Princess would do any better.  I believe there's a lot of risk when you run fillies against boys, physically and specially mentally at least here in the US.  They're not bred like the aussies or euros.

06 Jan 2014 12:23 PM

Coldfacts my buddy! Happy New year to you. I don't ever consider your reactions to my posts as personal attacks're a jolly good fellow.

Your 'tale of the tapes' however fail to prove your point since Beholder won all her races at Santa Anita and scored in the Distaff on a speed-biased track. Beholder is an awesome fill in my view but Princess of Sylmar's overall body of work glows brighter.

Sports is also about tactics and Mr Stanco showed himself a poor tactician by sending POS to the Distaff against his better judgment. No one could argue that POS didn't belong in the BC Classic (except Jay Jay and his ridiculous notion that fillies shouldn't compete against colts). Given that she already had the resume for champion filly, I reasoned that entering her in the BCC would insulate her from the risks of 'muddying the Eclipse waters' in case she was training off after a long season or might be vulnerable to the homecourt/ speed-bias advantage that Beholder had in the Distaff. Thats what I meant by being "out of the reach of Beholder" ...nothing sinister, just plain wisdom/tactical genius.  

06 Jan 2014 3:43 PM
anita b

Hi Steve,

I am sorry that Mr. Stanco and Todd didn't stick to their original plan. Princess of Sylmar had been in training for over a year. She needed a vacation on a farm to rest and recharge her batteries. Horses, like humans, are not made of metal--bodies need time for rest and relaxation. Thats all. Hope all our beloved thoroughbreds have safe new years.

06 Jan 2014 3:54 PM

Ranagulzion :  So your "tactic" is to avoid Royal Delta, Beholder and Closed Hatches and run in a different race to prevent her from losing the championship ?  Because doing so, the publicity will distract the voters from Beholder's win and focus on the "filly" that went against the boys.

I think that's what separated the boys from the men right there...Mr. Stanco went with his decision to run his best filly against the best fillies or mare instead of "avoiding" them and distract the voters by running in a different race.   I think I'll go ahead and say that he made the right decision and he should be credited for it.  I think that's the reason why Mr. Stanco is a horse owner and you're a blogger.

And to correct you, I never said fillies should never run against the boys...if you paid attention, I said it takes a special type of filly or mare to do that and be successful, I didn't believe Princess was one.  There's a big difference.

06 Jan 2014 11:58 PM
Amy Hurley

Mr. Stanco deserves the thanks of all racing fans for continuing to campaign Princess of Sylmar after she had certainly wrapped up the Eclipse by beating Royal Delta in the Beldame.  I certainly disagree with Kelso 66 below, who seems to believe that racing POS in the B.C. was "all about [Mr. Stanco]."  He clearly absolutely loves his filly and all that she has brought to him and his family - isn't that why people own racehorses [or should]?

08 Jan 2014 2:49 AM

Essentially agree with Kelso 1966. We can't read minds, and words sometimes mislead, but I'd wager this way. Also, a vote for Beholder as champion  3 yr. old, champion 3 yr. old filly, and older as well, and yes, perhaps HOY. Lastly, POS's Beldame was, in retrospect, less impressive than at first blush. Royal Delta had clearly already lost her mojo.

08 Jan 2014 9:23 PM

I am so very sorry I have to say this but can we maybe stop calling the Princess "POS"?  I really do double and triple and quadruple takes every time I see that.   (Especially when she's gonna get the Eclipse.)

09 Jan 2014 5:02 PM
Linda in Texas

MZ me thinks you are too savvy in the abbreviation world of texting. I took a double take myself the first time i saw P O S in reference to Princess of Sylmar. "The Princess" is a nice shortened version as Steve used in this article. Happy New Year MZ. Enjoy your comments always.

11 Jan 2014 10:26 AM

Has anyone used mathematics, such as the kind in this old report, when handicapping?

11 Jan 2014 1:05 PM

Let it Ride.  I grew up there with the old tote tickets and always looking for that one black flamingo same time every day!

12 Jan 2014 6:14 AM


The names of the male horses below have been regularly abbreviated in numerous postings:

Mine That  Bird - MTB

Will Take Charge -WTC

Game On Dude - GOD

Mucho Macho Man - MMM

Each could be regarded as a Prince.

Do you do double and triple and quadruple takes every time you see their abbreviated names?  

12 Jan 2014 11:07 AM

Coldfacts: abbrev. are fn a.l.a. they can't be interp. in an unfortun8 manner.

i.e. "P.O.S." is what J called the car K was driving in MIB and it was most unkindly meant.

(LOL)(R we OK?)

13 Jan 2014 2:55 PM

Jay Jay: The Eclipse awards are now final and in favor of Beholder. Do you still think that Stanco acted wisely? (LOL)

Steve: Do you still think that he won more than he lost? Now that the Eclipse results are in I actually feel sympathy for Princess of Sylmar. It is a painful loss with that resume she built ...simply because she was entered in the wrong Breeders Cup race ...what a shame.  I'm not knocking Beholder here, she's a brilliant filly ...her connections proved smarter and ran her where her powers were dominant, that is, at Santa Anita (she lost on her only venture outside her hometrack/comfort zone to a filly that won on several different tracks) ...congratulations to them.

19 Jan 2014 4:07 PM

mz: LMAO that abbreviated post was hilarious.

20 Jan 2014 1:36 PM

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