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.


Leave a Comment:


Awesome article. and I love what they are doing with Princess! Just because she doesn't go to the Breeders' shouldn't mean anything less about stature. She is a great filly and I hope she continues racing! EVEN if she never sees the Breeders' Cup starting gate.

28 Aug 2013 12:44 PM
Karen in Indiana

She has been the surprise star of the year and I appreciate the long-term view of her connections. Here is hoping the best for all involved, not just for this year, but next year, too! They are giving us something to look forward to.

28 Aug 2013 1:19 PM

Bravo to their choices for this lovely girl!!!  Wishing them all continued health and success!

28 Aug 2013 2:26 PM

I don't want to second guess anyone, but the Breeder's Cup is so prestigious. If the Princess is running like a fine tuned machine at this point in her career, why not take her all the way? I do understand the reasoning here, but she has probably secured an eclipse award even if she loses at the BC. "Next year" doesn't happen for alot of horses. Remember the invincible Rachel Alexandra and the recent sensation Groupie Doll? What they possessed at the age of 3 wasn't there at 4. Greatness is often short lived. As for The Princess of Sylmar, they should rethink this one.

28 Aug 2013 2:37 PM
Pedigree Ann

If the Breeders' Cup is moved permanently to the west coast, we will see more and more east coast horses declining due to the fact that they must ALWAYS ship and may be at a disadvantage thereby. The whole idea of the Breeders' Cup was to move it around so EVERYBODY has to ship out of their region SOMETIME; no circuit gets the hometown advantage all the time.

But the current committee is more interested in TV and media coverage than in doing right by horses, their connections, and the fans who have supported their races for decades.

28 Aug 2013 4:03 PM
anita b

The Princess is the real deal---BUT she has run since last year without a vacation. As good as she is, if she were mine--she would go to the farm for a vacation. And at the farm--not at Belmont who takes a vacation where they "work" at?!

Remember Rachel--her vacation was at the track. She needs down time. And we all want to see her healthy and happy next year.

28 Aug 2013 4:04 PM
Claire Novak

Anita - Ed told me she will get downtime on the farm in KY following one last race if she does indeed run again this year. So sounds like you're on the same page! :-)

28 Aug 2013 4:31 PM
ceil rock

I don't think you can compare her situation to Rachel or Groupie Doll. In both of those cases the connections went to the well once too often. Both fillies had gut-wrenching, all-out races against colts. Princess of Sylmar has been really well managed this year. Personally, I'd like to see her pass on Royal Delta this year and end her season with a win in the Cotillion.

28 Aug 2013 4:38 PM
Bethany Loftis

Thanks Claire for the update! Good to know they're wanting to do what's right by the horse. She's had a stellar campaign, Eclipse or not and certainly deserves a little R&R at the farm!

Pedigree Ann- I agree with you in regards to the Breeder's Cup. Maybe with some replacements in the board there will be some positive changes? I also have a completely random question, are there any good books on pedigree that you recommend for a relatively new enthusiast?

28 Aug 2013 8:13 PM

I still say Princess has a Horse of the Year performance in her.  She's that good.

29 Aug 2013 12:42 AM

I'm very happy that they're taking a longer view.  They plan on racing her next year, so why push it?  I'd read they initially planned on the Alabama being her final race this year.  I think they should stick to that.

29 Aug 2013 12:59 PM
Greg R

I would like to see Princess run in the Beldame.  She would have nothing to lose if she followed her elder, Royal Delta, across the finish line.  On the other hand, a loss to other sophomore fillies wouldn't look good, so late in the year.  What if another top 3 yr old filly jumps up and beats Delta in the Distaff?  Furthermore, Princess might not like Parx as well as Belmont.  I also well understand their not wanting to ship across the country for the BC.  What if she didn't hold her form that long?  Better to run now.  If Royal Delta is not fully cranked for the Beldame, because of BC plans, the little girl would have a chance to beat her and really go down in the books.

30 Aug 2013 12:29 AM
Greg R

Incidentally, yes, I agree that the BC should be a traveling show.  That has always been a big part of its interest.  Who would want to see the World Series held in the same stadium every year?  Once upon a time, I actually thought that it might eventually visit Europe every fourth or fifth year, something like that, but it never developed in that direction.

30 Aug 2013 12:35 AM
Pedigree Ann

Bethany -

I started by studying stallion registers. The 4 or 5 cross AND the female families. The Blood-Horse has pages on-line if you want to look at particular animals, but browsing the entire book gets you the big picture.

30 Aug 2013 1:28 AM

What a great decision! So nice to see folks really thinking of the welfare of the  horse...she's paid her dues (on the track anyway, I'm sure lots will be expected in the foaling barn!). Let her take a break and if she comes back fine and it not we can look forward to her babies. Hopefully she'll continue to race because she's so much fun to watch, but hopefully her well being will always be first.

31 Aug 2013 8:36 PM
Fred and Joan

Pedigree Ann, we so enjoy reading your opinions and comments. We agree that the BC should be rotated among different regions of the country . You sound like you would be a good trainer or owner, perhaps you already are. we look forward to reading more of your insights and comments. we have always felt the mares and their temperament is very important to producing good runners. we have several mares that are excellent with people but are dominant and bossy over our farms stallion and lessor ranked horses just like Princess of Sylmar.

03 Sep 2013 12:43 PM
ceil rock

Bethany - Your question wasn't directed to me, but I would start by subscribing to the BloodHorse magazine. (That way you also get the print Stallion Register). They have content that doesn't appear on-line. They give you a lot of information on the broodmares of stakes winners.  Also, you get articles on individual farms and their philosophies on breeding.

05 Sep 2013 11:18 AM

I agree whole-heartedly with the decision to not go to the Breeders' Cup with this horse.  Not for the shipping reason, but if you build a great season across the year, that should mean something!  How many Grade I's does it take?

If you had a Triple Crown Winner who didn't run in the BC Classic would their campaign be sub-par?

And the BC needs to move every year.  Few American horses run in Europe but we're going to make it standard to ask them to ship not just over the Atlantic but across the continent?  Churchill and Belmont are just 2 viable options in the grand scheme of things - make it happen!  So it might be cool, so it might be rainy, isn't that part of racing too?  While I'm reluctant to use the NFL as an example for anything, even their conservative ownership is planning an outside Super Bowl in 2014 and expect a full house!

05 Sep 2013 3:33 PM

Don't think the BC permanent home

will be in CA...But places it won't be are Florida, Canada, N J

or Texas !  Del Mar would not be

a good choice with a 860 foot stretch, other variables. Princess

Sylmar won't ship west (how could

she miss with name like that ?) Just the same as Game on Dude would

not ship east 2013, wherever !

06 Sep 2013 2:18 AM

Quote from "Pedigree Ann":

"If the Breeders' Cup is moved permanently to the west coast, we will see more and more east coast horses declining due to the fact that they must ALWAYS ship and may be at a disadvantage thereby."

What do you think the west coast has to do every year when they show up to run in the Kentucky Derby. Preakness

Stakes and Belmont Stakes?

08 Sep 2013 11:54 AM
Old Timer

What is not to like about this great filly and her connections? I do hope that she runs against Delta as it would be good for the sport. I also agree with Pedigree Ann that it is getting tiresome having the BC out West every year with no variation. Nice article.

08 Sep 2013 12:25 PM

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