No Breeders' Cup for Princess?

Princess of Sylmar wins the Kentucky Oaks (photo: Anne M. Eberhardt)

The best 3-year-old filly in the country might run the race of her life next time out, but even if she does, her connections don't plan on sending her to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

While decisions on year-end honors frequently come down to the two-day season finale—to be held again this year at Santa Anita Park—Pennsylvania-bred Princess of Sylmar has dominated her division so emphatically, with such talent, that after taking the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I), and most recently the Aug. 17 Alabama Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course in sparkling fashion, her connections feel any other performance from her would be icing on the cake.

Given Princess of Sylmar’s five stakes wins (she took the Busanda and Busher at Aqueduct before stepping up to the big leagues) and one runner-up finish (in the grade II Gazelle) from six starts in 2013, it could be argued that her form has been the most consistent of any sophomore on the racetrack—male or female—this year. With nothing to prove, owner Ed Stanco says he won’t send the Todd Pletcher trainee to the Breeders’ Cup, at least this season.

“When July 15 came and it was time to make the supplemental payment we looked at it, but I said ‘Why do that when winning the Alabama may be enough (to secure an Eclipse Award)?’” Stanco recalled of planning Princess of Sylmar’s championship season. “I never wanted to go to the Breeders’ Cup with her; I really didn’t like the idea of shipping to California, that just takes something out of them, and she’s already run nine races in a row. If she’s healthy, we’ll look at it next year.”

Princess of Sylmar wins the Alabama (photo: Adam Coglianese/NYRA)

Before you bemoan the absence of the sophomore star from Breeders’ Cup festivities, consider where her final start of 2013 could come—against elders in the $400,000 Beldame Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park on Sept. 28, an event in which she is likely to tangle with not just any older mare, but with two-time champion Royal Delta.

“We’ve always said to everybody we would take it one race at a time; we’re never going to push her, just let her go easy, and that takes us to where we are today,” Stanco said. “As of today, she’s doing very well. She came back from winning the Alabama 100% and basically Todd will make the determination whether or not she can run again this year, but at this point it looks like she’s going to.”

Two prospects are on the table, the 1 1/8-mile Beldame for fillies and mares 3 and older at Belmont Park, or the $1 million Cotillion Stakes (gr. I) at Parx Racing for 3-year-old fillies one week earlier.

“Which race we go to will really be Todd’s call,” Stanco said. “The race at Parx has a big purse, but it’s a cutback to a mile and a sixteenth. The other side of it is, I really feel at this point in time that we’ve done everything we had to do with the 3-year-old division, so maybe it’s time we move forward and go to the older division to give it a try.

“Belmont is a mile and an eighth; she knows every inch of the track, she likes the track, that’s her home. I was at the performance (the grade I Personal Ensign at Saratoga) the other day and Royal Delta is terrific, she really is, she’s a phenomenal animal and just wonderful to watch. However, we’re a come-from-behind horse, and the way I look at it, Royal Delta seems to be going to the front now. It’s hard for other fillies or mares to pass Princess, so if she runs her race and comes from behind, she’s not going to get passed. If she doesn’t get there, fine, it’s not going to ruin her—Royal Delta’s not going to break her heart. If we feel she’s up to the task, we’ll go for it.”

Princess of Sylmar’s seven career victories have come by a combined margin of 45 ¼ lengths. What makes her so good? Stanco doesn’t exactly know, except to recognize something in her nature that has been there since day one.

“I was there the day she was born, and we’ve been on the farm with her frequently growing up,” the owner said. “In the paddock as a yearling, she’d always have a bloody nose from roughhousing with the other horses. It’s funny, because in the Busanda she pushed her way through a hole without Chris DeCarlo pushing her; she went on her own and physically pushed her way through between the horses, and very few fillies are willing to do that. With people, she’s very gentle, but around other horses on the racetrack, she’s a killer.”

Stanco’s goal all along with the sophomore daughter of Majestic Warrior has been longevity for his King of Prussia Stable.

“I really want to see her race as a 4-year-old, and I do not want to see her lose interest in racing,” he said. “We want to take our time. You’ve got to be patient at this stuff. The Breeders’ Cup will be there next year, and maybe she will, maybe she won’t, but I think we’ve done a great job of planning everything out and I’m just very, very mindful of her condition and her energy level.

“She didn’t lose a step after the Alabama. I try to get over there when she gallops in the morning, and she’s full of herself. She’s getting bigger, stronger, and much more professional. If she can handle another race and she can move forward another race, we’ll do it. It’s all up to her.”

Note: Of course, in the racing world, anything can happen. Just because Princess of Sylmar isn't nominated to the Breeders' Cup doesn't mean she'd be shut out if her connections changed their minds. The Horses of Racing Age nomination policy permits nominations for $100,000 for the offspring of Breeders' Cup nominated stallions until Oct. 22, when all runners must be pre-entered for the World Championship races.

For more on Princess of Sylmar’s beginnings, read Steve Haskin’s recent blog, The Princess of Sylmar Story. And keep an eye out for an upcoming feature on Ed Stanco in the Sept. 14 issue of The Blood-Horse.

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