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HRN Original Blog:
Bada Bing Inc.

The King Behind the Princess

As far as royal families go the Stancos hardly ring a bell with anyone outside the world of Thoroughbreds. But to those in the horse racing know, the man behind leading three-year-old filly, Princess of Sylmar, Ed Stanco, may be considered a Commoner King.

Faced with the completely unlikely circumstance of breeding and owning the leading contender for the Three-year-Old Filly Eclipse Award after his Princess of Sylmar defeated her elders and the reigning queen in Royal Delta, Stanco wears his crown on a tilt. A fan of the game long before heading up the King of Prussia Stable partnership, Stanco prefers meeting with his horse’s loyal followers more than the media that swarm him after each of Princess of Sylmar’s victories. 

As Stanco finally grabbed a bite to eat 90 minutes after his homebred notched her fourth straight Grade I victory in the Beldame, he was approached by just one of the many Princess watchers.

“Hi Ed, my name is Vito and I’m just a fan of your horse,” he said with hand extended. Stanco quickly finished chewing, stood and put his hand in Vito’s, saying, “You know what Vito, so am I.” Then as he says to just about everybody who talks to him about his prized princess, “It’s unbelievable isn’t it?”

This followed a similar instance outside the Beldame winner’s circle celebration when 20 minutes after the win, spending most of it with media outlets and Breeders’ Cup representatives, Stanco noticed the young fan in the video below. Watch her reaction, when Stanco invites her back to the barn to meet Princess of Sylmar following the races. (Pardon my voice as the microphone on Ed malfunctioned. I was describing the action at hand to Ed’s son, Adam, currently on the West Coast and unable to make the East Coast trip.)

  

What Stanco and his partners own is the rare occurrence of breeding, luck, talent and confidence from having the first three…and they know it. Part of the Princess of Sylmar’s charm is her principal owner. An actuary by trade, Stanco knows the extremely low probability of owning such a special equine. He also knows that simply getting a fragile Thoroughbred to the races is an accomplishment.

“I’m still having a hard time wrapping my arms around all this,” he says. Follow Stanco around and you’ll hear this refrain often, as if he still pinches himself even though his princess has won the Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks, Alabama and now, the Beldame.

“I was on top of the world when we made it to the Saratoga winner’s circle with a $20,000 maiden claimer,” he says of earlier days. He also had a NY-bred champion filly/mare in Capeside Lady, a Grade II winner, who led the 2005 Breeders’ Cup Distaff for a short time. “I thought that was it for me, that we couldn’t go any higher than that.”

Now Stanco and his partners find themselves in the headiest clouds of horse racing. A place in which your horse is the leading candidate for end of the season awards, and since she is the only current North American horse with four Grade I wins, whispers of Horse of the Year are gaining steam.

It’s not like the Stanco/King of Prussia train needs anything to fuel their fire. If you followed any of Horse Racing Nation’s up close and personal videos of Princess of Sylmar this summer, you’ll recognize the scene below, except this time Stanco had his own microphone.

 

In fact before the seriousness of Super Saturday, Stanco and an extended clan of about 150 friends and family invaded, no, took over, the Saratoga winner’s circle. Her convincing Coaching Club American Oaks and authoritative Alabama wins stamped Princess of Sylmar a legitimate candidate for top filly honors.

The rancorous winner’s circles with chants of “Ed-die! Ed-die! Ed-die!” combined with high-fives all around had NYRA track photographer trying in vain to herd the celebrants into a winner’s circle photo. Truth was they cared little for decorum and were too busy enjoying their moments in the sun.

Stanco soaked in all that he could those two Saturdays and the days in between renting a home in Saratoga for the season. In the aftermath of Princess’ wins, the victory celebration spilled over to Longfellows, a local restaurant and function hall. There, Stanco honored his partners with silver replicas of the Churchill glasses while the Princess’ still dirty saddlecloths hung from the rafters. Even trainer, Todd Pletcher received a cowboy hat as a gift one night back in July.

Magic, luck, happenstance or simply universal karma at work, Princess of Sylmar fell into Stanco and his partners’ hands.  Most know the story of how Stanco was forced to call a last minute audible when breeding his mare, Storm Dixie, originally scheduled to mate with Grand Slam. When Grand Slam went down with an injury, Stanco was faced with the challenge of deciding on whether to match Storm Dixie to fill-in, freshman stallion, Majestic Warrior.

“I said, ‘How long to I have to decide?’ They said [Storm Dixie] is ready now, you have about 10 minutes and that’s when I said, ‘OK, why not?’’”

Son Adam Stanco agrees that luck in breeding helped, but his dad’s careful planning has picked up where Princess of Sylmar’s genes started. “Every decision my dad has made in racing Princess has been calculated. Think about it, how many Todd Pletcher trainees start their careers at Penn National? Those races on the cold, Aqueduct track when nobody knew about her – that was part of the plan. He could see something special in her then.”

“My dad wanted to build her confidence,” Adam Stanco continues. “Even taking her to Churchill to race in the Oaks when many didn’t give her a chance was careful planning.”

Thoughtful. Humble. Grateful. These are the words that come to mind after spending parts of Princess of Sylmar’s magical run of Grade 1 victories with Stanco, his family and partners in racing. I briefly met Stanco in the paddock of the Kentucky Oaks, who, while in awe of the moment of his homebred, held a supreme confidence in his filly despite her 38-1 odds. “If she has any shot in lane I like my horse’s chances,” he said that day.

She started far back before gobbling up dirt and foes down the Churchill stretch, Princess of Sylmar both avenged an earlier loss to multiple Grade I winner Close Hatches and beat Two-Year-Old Champion Filly, Beholder. In fact, Princess of Sylmar beat every prominent filly in the country in her Oaks victory.

This was part of the reason, Stanco and trainer, Pletcher, decided to skip last week’s $1 million, Grade I Cotillion Stakes at Parx. The draw to run on Stanco’s home track with a Pennsylvania-bred was strong, but he resisted.

“I told Todd not to let the money make a difference in his decision,” he said. “If we’re that good let’s step up to the big leagues. Royal Delta, Beldame Stakes, fall racing at Belmont; we’re getting called up.”

Stanco discusses all of Princess of Sylmar’s racing moves with Pletcher before allowing the ever-successful trainer to make the final call. He trusts Pletcher’s horse sense, and Pletcher knows Stanco’s sharp mind can aid him in making the best decision possible.

Still Stanco’s confidence must affect Pletcher, King of Prussia’s partners and maybe even the The Filly, herself. A few days before the Beldame he said, “Don’t get me wrong, Royal Delta is a champion, a beast. But she’s a grinder. I know my horse’s turn of foot and if she’s within two lengths in the stretch I know the Princess will get there first.”

Snap back to late Saturday afternoon, as Andy Serling talks about Stanco. “Ed Stanco is good for this game, “ he said. “In fact, we need a 1,000 more Stancos owning horses. If his horse doesn’t go to the Breeders’ Cup, he should go anyway.”

Yes, there’s the Breeders’ Cup on the horizon, so the Stanco/Pletcher conference will happen then they’ll come to a decision and stick by it.

“You have to remember she beat all the best three year olds already, and today she beat Royal Delta, the best mare in the country,” Stanco said. “Really there’s nothing left to prove, is there?”

Undeniably, Stanco will figure that out in the next few weeks. If he does go to Santa Anita, he’ll have to let 100 of his friends and family know, so travel and track plans can be made. It’s a little tougher flying 3,500 miles away compared with driving a few hundred.

“You know most people get the story wrong,” said Adam Stanco. “The narrative has been Princess of Sylmar is great despite where she’s came from. That’s wrong, she’s great because of where she’s come from.”

“Clearly she’s a gift - the best filly in the world. How did this happen to me?” the elder Stanco said.

 

 

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Older Comments about The King Behind the Princess...

Good for you Elizabeth,whatever the gentleman said to you.your expression on your face was ,as though you just won the Lottery. Wish we knew that was you.We were then standing about 20 feet to your right.Again congrats for making it on the big screen.One other question? Just like the Super Bowl MVPs'. Are you now going to Hollywood?
The one with the sign is me!!!!! Can't believe it was posted on here!
  • tony bada bing · Elizabeth, sorry I talked over your conversation. I had a microphone on Ed that somehow died, otherwise I would have picked up your conversation and not mine. I heard you met Princess, she's just as wonderful up close. · 301 days ago
  • Averie Elizabeth · No problem! Still pretty awesome to see myself on here! And yes, it was so amazing to have been able to meet her. · 301 days ago
Sorry, meant Disney World(what the hell,give them a free plug)
It would be easy to say the Stanco Family deserves this because they are such great people, but c'mon this story transcends good things happening to nice people. It's unbelievable isn't it?
It was so cool being part of the whole Beldame scene: the Princess and you, my Horse Racing Nation friend and colleague.

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Tony Bada Bing began his lifelong quest of finding winners more than 35 years ago as a fifth grade student. This is when his grandfather first took him to the many Off Track Betting facilities sprinkled throughout Long Island, NY. While many kids his age were clamoring to hit the beach or an amusement park during summer vacation, Bada Bing was spending it in stuffy, smoked-filled rooms filled with retirees and reprobates listening to Marshall Cassidy on tape delay calling Saratoga.

This passion was further lit by his father, who took Bada Bing to East Boston's Suffolk Downs, only after Bada Bing learned to read the Racing Form. For most of his young adult life a summer rotation of NY OTB, Suffolk, and the now shuddered Rockingham Park in Salem, NH filled his betting days. 

Notable winners along the way: Willow Hour's and Runaway Groom's Travers wins as well as Derby winners Grindstone, Thunder Gulch (which he called in print the day before) and Super Saver. His latest quest is to hit the Kentucky Derby superfecta.

Bada Bing plays tournaments at Derby Wars, bets through several account wagering sites and has blogged about Thoroughbred racing for the past four years. He prefers the bigger meets of NYRA and California as well as seasonal meets of Gulfstream, Churchill and Oaklawn. He likes vertical, multirace wagers like Pick 4s.

He has produced several Horse Racing Nation videos, in addition to blogging. He can be found at Twitter @tonycbadabing. While away from the track Bada Bing enjoys time with his wife, who tolerates and supports his passion, and his two children.