Princess of Sylmar is far beyond the silencing doubters phase.
The 3-year-old filly turned the Kentucky Oaks into a ticket-tearing parade and announced her arrival into the division’s top echelon with a win at 38-1. In what some called one of the strongest Oaks fields of recent memory, the second-longest shot on the board persevered to finish first despite a bumpy start – yet her victory was dismissed by many as a “fluke.”
The Pennsylvania-bred by the relatively new sire Majestic Warrior eluded the spotlight despite being trained by Todd Pletcher, one of the nation’s top trainers. A flashy chestnut with a fast-closing style, she loomed in the shadows of the headline grabbers from Gulfstream, Churchill Downs and Santa Anita. She raced exclusively at Penn National and Aqueduct prior to the Oaks. When she couldn’t catch Close Hatches in the Gazelle in April, her first graded stakes try, she was written off by most as distance challenged and not Grade 1 class.
She continued to be discounted even after claiming the garland of lilies. The public made Unlimited Budget, third in the Oaks, the favorite of the Coaching Club American Oaks, her next race at Saratoga.
Princess of Sylmar barely broke a sweat while winning by six lengths.
The storied Alabama, with its daunting 10 furlongs and history of producing champions, would solidify her status as division leader. Finally the favorite for the first time since February, Princess of Sylmar drew her due adulation as she made her way to Saratoga’s winner’s circle – again.
The filly will be the true underdog when she faces her most formidable rival yet in Royal Delta on Saturday in the Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park. Arguably the best mare in training in the country, the two-time champion 5-year-old reflects who Princess of Sylmar is seeking to become.
“I don’t think she has anything left to prove at this point,” Pletcher said of his burgeoning talent.
In an intriguing plot twist, jockey Mike Smith, who was aboard Princess of Sylmar in the Kentucky Oaks, is the regular rider for Royal Delta and will guide the mare on Saturday.
“She’s going to come running,” Smith said of the younger challenger he knows well. “It’s just a matter if she can get to me or not.”