It will be almost seven months to the day – make that the
day after the Breeder’s Cup Filly and Mare Distaff - that Ed Stanco, Managing
Partner of King of Prussia Stables and breeder of his fabulous filly, Princess of Sylmar, shared his California nightmare with me.
“You know I woke up at 4 o’clock this morning, staring at
the ceiling, thinking about the Distaff and you know what …” Stanco said that
day after with the same picture-perfect mountain backdrop while we sat at the
Great Race Place. His pause was long. I was expecting the finish to be “…I’m OK
After all Stanco’s fairytale season watching his Princess
take down four historic Grade I races in a row (Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club of
America Oaks, Alabama and Beldame) was filled with such spontaneous joy at each
winning turn. Stanco, his partners and their extended family members overflowed,
strike that, took over, each winner’s circle celebration with calls of
“Ed-die! Ed-die! Ed-die!”
Their enthusiasm was Stanco’s. On top of it all, he’d been
so grateful, gracious and generous with his new found breeding and racing
success that I was sure the bright side still remained on that November day.
But Stanco’s finish was unabashedly realistic, as realistic as his filly’s
shocking loss the day prior. “…and you know what…it still sucks.”
While the Belmont Stakes will rightly grab all the attention
on Saturday with California Chrome’s shot a history, the second-most
anticipated race will likely be the Ogden Phipps. The seventh race on the card
will bring together Stanco’s Princess of Sylmar, Spendthrift Farm’s two-time
Eclipse Champion, Beholder and international powerhouse stable, Juddmonte’s
Close Hatches, runner up in the Distaff and already a two-time stakes winner
this year. Their combined earnings are $7 million with 11 Grade I wins among
them. A championship season may well be defined for the Phipps winner.
For his part, Stanco is still grateful. Grateful his filly
came back from a five-month layoff to win a Cat Cay Stakes with ease. Grateful
for the sportsmanship of Spendthrift’s Wayne Hughes, who was willing to ship
his Beholder cross country, when it would have been easier to stay home.
Grateful that Bill Mott pointed his almost $2 million earner, Close Hatches, to
the Phipps, making it a dream race.
“You know, I want all the fillies to run their A-race,”
Stanco said. “Now that would be fun and an incredible race to win.”
The pieces are in place for something special. Beholder,
like Princess of Sylmar, defeated a field of overmatched fillies in her return,
while Close Hatches took Oaklawn’s Grade II Azeri and Garde I Apple Blossom
Stakes against two small fields.
Close Hatches likely will start quick and try to squirt
away. Beholder is likely to race off Close Hathches’ flank waiting to make her
own devastating move. Princess Sylmar with a big closing kick will likely be
the last to move for home. There’s the potential for a nose-separating,
head-bobbing finish with some wonderful race call from Tom Durkin.
Stanco will be ready. “It’s going to be great!”