Fairy tales end.
While Princess of Sylmar wasn’t called upon to evade a treacherous wolf or hungry witch, her magical winning spell evaporated with a last place finish in yesterday’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
Unlike her four previous victorious Grade 1 efforts, in which she measured her competition and ran by with ease, jockey Javier Castellano, actually pulled out the whip on Princess of Sylmar at the top of the stretch when she had yet to make her patent winning move. It was to no avail.
The usually joyous jumping and whooping from Princess of Sylmar’s owners, King of Prussia Stable, was replaced with disbelief. Starting with a come-from-the-clouds finish in the Kentucky Oaks through an unusual dry and winning Saratoga season and finally dispatching a champion at Belmont, Princess of Sylmar’s script was remarkably consistent and happy – running from behind until her jockey asked her to go and finishing with a winner’s circle celebration,
Her Breeders’ Cup Distaff chances were gone in less than a New York minute when she took two side steps out of the gate and couldn’t regain her running rhythm according to trainer Todd Pletcher, standing on the Santa Anita track awaiting his filly’s return yesterday afternoon. Just after dismount Castello told both Pletcher and principal owner, Ed Stanco, besides Princess of Sylmar’s misstep he never felt the same power underneath him.
For Stanco’s part he was just as gracious in losing as he was in winning. He offered no excuses. “That’s horse racing. We lost.” King of Prussia partner, Ciro Defalco, put it this way, “We weren’t afraid to lose. If that were the case, we would have stayed home.”
One race too many, a hard, speed favoring track, by Friday afternoon Stanco, his family and all partners only concern was the health of their filly. Stanco reported that Princess of Sylmar will ship to WinStar Farm before getting a full medical checkup. She is expected to be back in training by January 1.
Stanco for his part, kept his sense of humor intact. Following the Distaff he approached Dick Mandella, trainer of winner, Beholder, saying, “Dick, why don’t you bring Beholder to race on the dirt at Aqueduct in the Comely Stakes.” A polite jab at the rock-hard, much spoken about Santa Anita racing surface – one that favored California-based frontrunners like Goldencents and Beholder.
The morning after the Distaff, Stanco answered any and all critics, saying Princess of Symlar’s loss jeopardized her Eclipse Award chances. “Champions don’t stay home.”
Yes, fairy tales end, usually with something learned, something lost. Life goes on and Princess of Sylmar will back for a four-year season with prestigious races like the Delaware Handicap, Saratoga’s Personal Ensign and a repeat in the Beldame, a schedule where her next chapters of her story will be told.