Princess of Sylmar, one of the most accomplished three-year-old fillies ever to be denied an Eclipse Award, makes her long awaited return to the races Sunday at the Big A. The occasion for the four-year-old filly’s debut will be the $100,000 Cat Cay, a one-turn, flat mile race that also features the highly regarded Wedding Toast.
When last seen, Princess of Sylmar ran the only poor race of her career when she struggled home to finish 6th in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita. Before that, though, she was good as gold, with only a second place finish in the Gazelle interrupting a run that included romps in both the Busanda and Busher, over Aqueduct's inner strip, before a historic grade 1 streak.
A longshot winner of the Kentucky Oaks, Princess of Sylmar more than proved that big win was no fluke with dominating follow up scores in both the Coaching Club American Oaks and the Alabama at Saratoga. Taking it up one more notch, in her fourth consecutive grade 1 win, the daughter of Majestic Warrior faced elders for the first time and took down the three-time champion Royal Delta in the Beldame Invitational in impressive fashion.
Demonstrating a strong sense of sportsmanship, owner/breeder Ed Stanco, of King of Prussia Stable, altered original plans to call it a season after the Beldame, and supplemented the first horse he ever bred for the Breeders' Cup. A poor start to the race was the beginning of a bad afternoon for Princess of Sylmar. Adding insult to injury, the filly that she had defeated in the Kentucky Oaks, Beholder, went on to win the race, and snare the championship from the Eastern star.
On Sunday, Javier Castellano will ride the Todd Pletcher trained filly for the fifth consecutive time, as the pair breaks from the three-hole. She’s been pegged as the even-money favorite in the compact field of six.
Pletcher thought the timing was right for the Pennsylvania-bred to kick off her season in the Cat Cay.
"After they switched the Ruffian to May, she was far enough in her training that we decided to target the Cat Cay," said Pletcher. "We like the spacing from this race to the [Grade 1] Ogden Phipps [on June 7 at Belmont]. It's not so much the size of the purse, but rather because this is the right place to get her season started."
Working well for her return to the races, it is a start to the season that many will expect to result in a victory for the classy filly who has won 8-of-11 lifetime. While there does look to be a fair amount of early speed for Princess of Sylmar to run at, there is also the talent of Wedding Toast to worry about.
After paying off the place bettors in her first-out, the Godolphin owned daughter of Street Sense has rattled off four straight, highlighted by a 14 ½ length optional claimer at Belmont, and a wire-to-wire score in the Grade 3 Comely at Aqueduct on Thanksgiving weekend. Like Princess of Sylmar, Wedding Toast will be making her first start since November on Sunday. Jose Lezcano, will have the riding assignment, and the pair will break from the outside spot. She has been installed as the 6-5 morning-line second choice.
The rest of the Cat Cay field includes Flash Forward, Villette, Highestmaintenance, and Montana Native. In my estimation, the four likely will only be looking for a minor award, considering the top two.
In fact, let me take that one step farther … Wedding Toast is strictly the one to beat for second place, because you know that I am all in for another Princess of Sylmar victory.