COACHING CLUB AM. OAKS | PURSE: $300,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 1 | 1 1/8 MILES
Princess of Sylmar was much the best in the $294,000 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks, adding the July 20 Saratoga Race Course fixture to her earlier win in the Kentucky Oaks this spring for Ed Stanco's King of Prussia Stable and trainer Todd Pletcher.
With Javier Castellano aboard, Princess of Sylmar angled four wide off the far turn to get the lead in the five-horse field, and readily drew clear to win by six lengths over pacesetter My Happy Face in the 1 ⅛-mile test for 3-year-old fillies.
A 38-1 upset winner in the Kentucky Oaks in her most recent start May 3, Princess of Sylmar was sent off at odds of 2-1 to register her sixth triumph in eight starts. With the victory, the Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Majestic Warrior surpassed $1 million in career earnings.
Pletcher, who won Saratoga's Shuvee Handicap a race earlier with Authenticity, sent out his fifth Coaching Club winner.
"I think everyone kind of lost sight of the fact that going into the Kentucky Oaks, it was billed as the best Oaks we've seen in 25 years; this filly wins it and gets virtually no respect," Pletcher said. "I think today she put herself at the top of the leader board [for 3-year-old fillies], and now everyone understands that the Kentucky Oaks was a real race."
Stanco, who heads King of Prussia Stable, bred Princess of Sylmar out of the winning Catienus mare Storm Dixie. Princess of Sylmar's sire, Majestic Warrior, was the fourth-leading first crop sire of 2012 nationally for Ashford Stud.
Princess of Sylmar, who has won four of five starts this year with a second in the Gazelle Stakes prior to the Kentucky Oaks, finished in 1:51.07 over a track rated good.
Pletcher said he was pleased with how the race unfolded for the winner.
"I thought she was always traveling really well," he said. "There wasn't a lot of pace in there and they were tightly bunched. We made a mistake in the Gazelle when we felt like Close Hatches was the only speed. We kind of took her out of her running style, so I told Javier regardless of the pace, don't do that, just let her find her rhythm. I think she's got a very strong closing kick regardless of the fractions; just let her do her thing."
Marathon Lady was third, with Cue the Moon fourth. Unlimited Budget, the 6-5 favorite also trained by Pletcher, had an awkward start and gave way on the final turn to wind up last.
Princess of Sylmar was content to closely trail the compact field as My Happy Face, ridden by Joel Rosario, established a 1 ½-length edge over Cue the Moon and Marathon Lady while clipping off comfortable opening fractions of :24.60 and :48.98.
Unlimited Budget, who hit the gate at the start and was off slowly, recovered to move into third after a half-mile before Princess of Sylmar was let out a notch by Castellano on the final turn. My Happy Face negotiated six furlongs in 1:12.94, picking up the pace as Princess of Sylmar advanced on the far outside. Princess of Sylmar was four wide approaching the quarter pole and poked her head in front coming into the stretch.
Asked for more run in upper stretch, Princess of Sylmar responded willingly to open a two-length advantage and drew off in the final furlong while kept busy by Castellano to the wire.
Castellano regained the mount on the winner because Mike Smith, who was aboard Princess of Sylmar, was at Delaware Park to ride Royal Delta to victory in the Delaware Handicap. Castellano rode her in the Gazelle.
"I really appreciate that Todd gave me back the horse because I couldn't hook up in the [Kentucky] Oaks," Castellano said. "I really liked the way she did it. It was a great performance today. She ran like the best horse in the race. I'm really proud of her."
My Happy Face was second by 1 ¾ lengths over Marathon Lady and Robby Albarado.
"It all kind of went wrong at the break," Pletcher said of Unlimited Budget, who was back in against fillies after facing males when sixth in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) June 8.
Princess of Sylmar has now banked $1,007,220 after earning $180,000 for her latest win.
Pletcher's prior wins in the Coaching Club American Oaks came with Tweedside (2001), Ashado (2004), Octave (2007), and Devil May Care (2010).
Under equal weights of 121 pounds, Princess of Sylmar paid $6.30, $3.50, and $2.60, keying a $20.40 exacta. Michael Dubb's My Happy Face, the 5-2 third choice, returned $3.80 and $3.50. Marathon Lady, third in the Mother Goose Stakes June 22 at Belmont Park, paid $3.30.