As quickly as the horses stormed down the stretch and into
racing immortality, the Breeders' Cup is spiraling off in time behind us and
leaving in its wake the talk of year end championships. Already nearly two
weeks in the past, Eclipse Award talk is raging stronger than ever. Nearly
every category now has a definitive leader, while some remain TBD. The decision
for the three-year-old filly award may possibly be the most talked about, with
it truly remaining unknown to whether Beholder or Princess of Sylmar will claim
the award as theirs.
It’s a classic East vs. West matchup. Both striking and
talented young fillies have dominated their competition throughout the course
of the year on their respective coasts. Princess of Sylmar all but seemed to
have the award wrapped up following her fourth consecutive Grade 1 victory in
the Beldame on September 28th, but was knocked from her pedestal
following her dull and uncharacteristic-like last place finish in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Beholder, as we all know, swept to an emphatic 4 ¼ length victory
in the Distaff to match Princess of Sylmar’s 4 G1 wins on the year and in doing
so put herself in the running, and arguably on top, for divisional honors.
These two fillies are about as opposite as two horses can
bred and bathed in fame since her juvenile year, Beholder has been competing on
racing’s highest level since the 3rd start of her career, winning
her first G1 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in her fifth start and being
awarded juvenile filly honors. Princess of Sylmar came from inauspicious
beginnings, bred in Pennsylvania,
being sired by a horse who wasn’t originally even supposed to be her sire, and
breaking her maiden at Penn National. While Beholder is a frontrunner and been
competing in graded stakes since her third start, Princess of Sylmar is a
closer and didn’t start in her first graded stakes until April of this year.
I am one that believes Beholder likely claimed the award as
her own on that warm first day of November. Those who know me, or have read my
past couple articles, know how dearly I love Princess of Sylmar and this is a
topic that comes with literal heartache to me. Knowing that she almost
certainly lost the award at the end of the year, in her final race of the year,
sends an invisible dagger through my heart. I’m writing this article to put up
a fight for the horse I so much adore, and while I’m sure it’s fruitless (I
mean, who listens to 15-year-old girls around here?) it’s always worth getting
your voice out to the public in the most minute of ways. I just wish this is
something the voters will consider before casting their ballots.
Throughout this year, Princess of Sylmar has raced a total
of eight times and reigned victorious in six. Her combined winning margins have
totaled 25 ½ lengths. Of these six wins, two have come in ungraded stakes while
four have come in Grade 1’s, those four wins coming consecutively. She has
defeated 14 separate graded stakes winners this year and was the only horse to
win two Grade 1 stakes during the Saratoga
meet. She travelled to a total of five different racetracks and won from
distances ranging a mile and seventy yards to one and a quarter miles, three
wins coming at the 1 1/8 mile distance. She received a two month layoff, from
the time between the Kentucky Oaks and the Coaching Club American Oaks.
Throughout this year, Beholder has raced a total of seven
times and won five. Her combined winning margins have totaled 14 ¼ lengths. Of
these five wins, one came in an ungraded stakes while the other four have come
in Grade 1’s, two in the first half of the year and two in the second. She has
defeated 14 separate graded stakes winners this year. She travelled to a total
of three different racetracks and won from distances ranging one mile to one
and an eighth miles, two wins coming at a mile and two coming at 1 1/16 miles.
She received a four month layoff, double of what Princess of Sylmar received,
from the time between the Kentucky Oaks and the Torrey Pines.
Throughout this year, both fillies have defeated the
powerhouse mare of Royal Delta once, Beholder in the Distaff and Princess in
the Beldame. Despite her steady fall from grace, Royal Delta was considered the
horse to beat in both affairs and was installed the favorite in each. During
the Breeders Cup Distaff, Royal Delta gave way entering the far turn and was already
six lengths back entering the stretch, leaving Beholder with clear sailing to
the wire. During the Beldame, Royal Delta had assumed the lead by the ¾ pole
and had the lead from Princess of Sylmar entering the stretch, causing Princess
to battle with Delta before taking the lead and continuing onto victory. By
saying this, I’m not intending to take anything away from Beholder’s Distaff
victory. Her win was breathtaking. I’m just pointing out the fact that, unlike
Princess, Beholder didn’t have to deal with Royal Delta in the stretch run.
The Kentucky Oaks is a race that I believe comes more into
play than people are actually seeing it as. Putting a line through Princess
having to travel to California
for the Breeders Cup, the only time both fillies travelled out of the states
they’re based in, was to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Oaks. As we all know,
Princess of Sylmar upset Beholder by a half length to claim the lilies. With
the Breeders' Cup being held at Santa Anita, Beholder had the home track
advantage and an obvious speed bias on her side. Can we assume that if the
Breeders' Cup would have been run in New
York that there would have been the same outcome? Or
even in Kentucky?
The Oaks is really the only example of these two fillies competing on a level
playing field. No home track advantage. No speed bias.
With Princess of Sylmar tucked away for the winter, Beholder
can very easily come out and strike again, and it appears she may do just that.
If she does so, she would unanimously score her second consecutive Eclipse
Award. Even today, I can see Beholder taking home the award, since most voters
only have their eyes locked on the Breeders' Cup while determining their vote, I
still hope and pray daily that Princess’s name will be called early next
January at Gulfstream
Park. While most will
still believe the award is Beholder‘s, I hope after reading this a few may be
left thinking, even only if just a little bit. Both of these striking fillies
are so talented in their own right and both so deserving of this award, that I
can’t help but think “if only we still lived in the day and age when
co-champions were awarded”.
~Written by Averie Levanti