Dorothy knew: there’s no place like home and Princess of Sylmar does, too.
With authority, and under wraps, the Eclipse-nominated filly sailed home under Javier Castellano taking the Cat Cay Stakes at Aqueduct, the place where the four-time grade one stakes winner first showed she might have some quality.
An ecstatic, celebratory King of Prussia cheered their homebred, now, four-year-old, down the stretch in much the same way as they did from her Kentucky Oaks to Beldame victories last racing season. Of course, the yellow brick road ended poorly last year with a last place finish in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, her lone poor effort.
So it was with guarded optimism that the head of King of Prussia, Ed Stanco, walked through the Aqueduct clubhouse Sunday afternoon. His filly greeted him racing through the New York City skyline in a wall-sized mural upon entering the clubhouse. “I love this place, and we know how the Princess likes it here.”
Even with the good feelings coming back, Stanco reported a good case of the yips – feeling all a flutter of nerves like a golfer faced with a 3-foot putt – pre-race. Sons Eric and Randy reported the same on track as son, Adam, tweeted it from San Francisco.
Per usual, all of King of Prussia partners, their extended families and friends of friends showed up for her opening salvo. There was lunch, visits from NYRA hospitality, media, some handicapping of earlier races and a few laughs to break the nervous tension. “How’d she look? Is a mile long enough for her? Do you think she’s back?” These were the questions asked and then, answered by Princess Sylmar running like a 3-5 shot should, never in doubt.
Flashback to January 2013 when a then unheralded daughter of Majestic Warrior ran through a tight seam to take the Busher Stakes at where else? Aqueduct. “That’s when we knew we had something,” Stanco recalled.
So Sunday was confirmation for Stanco, his family, his partners, trainer Todd Pletcher and Castellano. Post race, the rider reported that Princess of Sylmar had her head in the game right from the get-go – a far cry from the two bad steps out of the Santa Anita gate in November.
Wedding Toast was a never threatening second and the rest were along for the ride. Likely next up is the Ogden Phipps, a Grade 1 event on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Last time she ran there, Princess of Sylmar, starred down reining two-time Filly and Mare Champion, Royal Delta, in the Beldame.
Ed Stanco is fond of stating, more than asking, “Isn’t this awesome.” For the growing legions of Princess of Sylmar Nation, the answer is, “Yes.”