They called it the greatest rendition of the 139 year old Kentucky Oaks. The much less popular sister of the immortal Kentucky Derby was getting much more spotlight this year. With a new point system intact, nearly every single top three-year-old filly stepped into the starting gate. From the champion juvenile Beholder coming off of back to back Grade 1 wins in California, to Dreaming of Julia off a 20+ length stakes romp last out, the unbeaten sensation of Unlimited Budget, and the undefeated rising stars of Close Hatches and Midnight Lucky, among others. It was bound to be a great race.
January 5th, 2013. I was home alone watching TVG when the feature on the card at Aqueduct came on, the ungraded Busanda Stakes for 3YO fillies. I watched a little Pennsylvania-bred chestnut filly, coming from Penn National, romp by 7 1/2 lengths. Her name was Princess of Sylmar. Right then I decided she was my Oaks horse. Again on February 2nd I watched her run away from the field by a dominant 7 lengths in the Busher Stakes. All the talk started up about Beholder, Dreaming of Julia, Unlimited Budget, and Midnight Lucky. No one seemed to take notice to the little filly tearing up Aqueduct's inner track. Was I the only one who noticed her promise?
I was lucky enough to make my way up to Aqueduct for Wood Memorial Day on April 6th. I was most excited to see my favorite filly in her first graded stakes. Rested for all of March, she was a fresh set of legs. But so was Juddmonte Farm's allowance winner Close Hatches. Those two met four overmatched rivals. The favorite by only 25 cents over Sylmar, Close Hatches bounded to the lead and set a noticeably slow pace before running away to an easy victory. Princess of Sylmar, being the deep closer she is, had nothing to run down and trailed home 3 1/4 lengths behind the eventual winner. Everyone disregarded her nearly immediately. Everyone but me, it seemed.
As the preps came to a close and the field for the 139th Oaks took shape it became obvious to me that this race was exploding with pace. Beholder, Dreaming of Julia, Close Hatches, Midnight Lucky, and the little Oaklawn speedball Rose to Gold. The pace had to be blazing fast. It all set up perfectly for Princess of Sylmar. With Unlimited Budget, Seaneen Girl, and Silsita suspected to be close to the pace, Princess of Sylmar was the only closer besides the inconsistent Pure Fun, who's best performance came over the synthetic. Drawing post 6 in an eventual field of 10, Princess of Sylmar went to the post at odds of 38-1 and was the second longest shot on the board.
Let me repaint the running of the race:
After a horrendous start that tossed around all of the horses in the middle of the starting gate, Princess of Sylmar sat in second to last while Midnight Lucky bounded away to set the pace with Beholder, Unlimited Budget, and Silsita tracing her every move. After a half in 46 and change, the filly was given her cue and she began to pick off horses one by one approaching the 3/8 pole until she was sitting in fourth turning for home. Swinging off the turn, champion Beholder charged away to a two length lead and looked clear to victory as Unlimited Budget tried to close to no avail and Midnight Lucky began to drop back. But suddenly, uncoiling a run down the middle of the track, was all but who? Princess of Sylmar. Pounding down the center of the track it appeared she would never get there, but hitting the final 1/16th of a mile she drew dead even with a game Beholder and drew away to win by a half length.
Since so many people were caught in the moment of this "huge upset" (And while I was freaking out with overexcitement) not many people took the time to look back at her race record to realize it wasn't that big of an upset. Her much inflated odds was all that made the upset. This is one of the most underrated horses I've seen in a while. The Oaks was run over two months ago, believe it or not, and Princess of Sylmar still hasn't recieved the proper credit she deserves. If the Eclipse Awards were held tomorrow I believe personally that she would be awarded champion three-year-old filly. This is my opinion. It's an extremely good crop, arguably better than the boys, but Princess of Sylmar defeated them all in the biggest race on the biggest day.
The Oaks wasn't a fluke. Expected to be back next in the Coaching Club American Oaks she should come back strong and hopefully will be for the rest of the year also. It's about time Princess of Sylmar gets the credit she so much deserves. She sure as well earned it.