Getting too excited about anything that happens over the inner oval during Aqueduct’s long winter can be fool’s folly, but after watching a lightly raced daughter of Majestic Warrior burst through a seem at the 3/16th’s pole and then proceed to lengthen her advantage with every subsequent stride to the wire, I have a feeling that something good is coming out of the Big A. The filly in question is Princess of Sylmar, and she impressed me enough today to move into my Top 10 of Kentucky Oaks prospects. Pretty heady stuff for a Pennsylvania-bred who began her career at Penn National, and has at least begun the winter north of the majority of highly regarded prospects in the loaded Todd Pletcher barn, but that’s how impressed I found today’s performance. Waiting patiently through fractions of :24, :48 3/5 and 1:13, Princess of Sylmar stayed down on the inside in Saturday's $100,000 Busanda Stakes for the first six furlongs. As the field of six straightened out for the stretch drive of the 1 mile and 70 yards affair, it was just a matter of whether she would find the room she needed to run. When a small opening presented itself, one spot of the rail, the favorite acted quickly. Driving through the hole with a strong and decisive move that demonstrated complete authority, Princess of Sylmar was suddenly on the lead, and the race was as good as over. Hitting the wire a 7 ½ length winner, she stopped the clock in a very respectable time of 1:41.27. It was a performance that totally overshadowed what the males did one race later in the Jerome Stakes, in my opinion.
“She felt great. She broke, she put me in a really good position, and I bided my time all the way to the quarter pole. I knew once the hole opened up she would go right on through. When I called on her, she just took off,” said winning rider, Chris DeCarlo. “I was sitting inside, just waiting for the pocket to open up. She kind of idled a little bit when she made the lead. She was looking around, but I’m sure if someone came to her she would have taken off again.”
While today’s win made many take notice of Princess of Sylmar, her good form has been building with each start. She finished 4th in her career debut, a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race for state-breds in October, but in that race she was flying at the finish after toiling in last for most of the way after coming out of the gate slow. Since then, she has been making some serious noise. One more race at Penn National resulted in a runaway, as he rolled home by a 19 length margin in the one mile maiden race. The King of Prussia Stable owned filly closed out her two-year-old season with a dominating 5 ¼ length score in an optional claimer at Aqueduct last month. Today’s eye-catching wins raises the chestnut filly’s career mark to 4-3-0-0, with $128,220 in the bank.
“This is a nice filly. We’ve always had high hopes for her,” said Michael McCarthy, Todd Pletcher’s assistant trainer. She tipped her hand a little bit over the summer [at Penn National]. Obviously you’re surprised when they break their maiden by 19 lengths, but she had trained like a nice filly. I am hoping she’ll stay here [in New York].”
McCarthy might be hoping she stays with him in New York, but I am hoping for bigger and better things to come on the way to the first Friday in May. She’s obviously got a long way to go, though, as today’s Busanda did not really offer much in the form of quality competition behind her, but she gives every indication of a filly with genuine class, and one that should relish the 1 1/8 mile distance of the Kentucky Oaks.
Photo courtesy of Matt Shifman