Race of the Week 2017

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Zipse At The Track

Kentucky Oaks Dark Filly: Princess of Sylmar

Since closing with a furious late rush to finish fourth in a 5 ½ furlong state-bred race at Penn National in her career debut, Princess of Sylmar has come a long way, baby. From modest beginnings, can a Kentucky Oaks champion come? I have reason to believe that the answer may be yes, and at most attractive odds.
In a season seemingly top-heavy with talented young fillies, King of Prussia Stable’s Pennsylvania-bred miss might seem to be in over her head. Dreaming of Julia’s monster win in the Gulfstream Park Oaks demands favoritism, but big performances by Beholder in the Santa Anita Oaks, Midnight Lucky in the Sunland Park Oaks, Unlimited Budget in the Fair Grounds Oaks, Emollient in the Ashland, Rose to Gold in the Fantasy, and Close Hatches in the Gazelle, have this year’s premier race for three-year-old fillies shaping up as a clash of titanesses. 
If you like one of those fillies, I can’t blame you, but I will tell you that all of them like to be on, or near, the early lead. Throw into the mix more quality speed, like Live Lively and Flashy Gray, and you have all the makings of a brutal early pace. So just who would benefit from all these excellent fillies knocking heads early and often? Enter the Good Princess.
In Princess of Sylmar’s next four starts after that debut loss back in October, the daughter of Majestic Warrior struck fear into her overmatched opponents. Winning a maiden, allowance, and the Busanda and Busher Stakes by an average of nearly ten lengths, she became the Northeast’s top sophomore filly. Her powerful finishes convinced her connections that she was indeed of Kentucky Oaks quality. So, a plan was formed.
Step one was a freshening for the Todd Pletcher charge, and a return to the races just over two months later in the Grade 2, $250,000 Gazelle, a 1 1/8-mile race at Aqueduct. Traditionally run in the fall, the Gazelle has now taken on the role as the female version of the Wood Memorial. On paper, Princess of Sylmar’s second place finish in the Gazelle may seem to have been a slight disappointment, but if you understand the dynamics of the race, and look at it as merely a prep for the Kentucky Oaks, I see it as only a vehicle to raise her odds on May 3.
As has been true in all of her races, Princess of Sylmar did not get a lot of pace to run at as Bill Mott’s unbeaten Close Hatches was alone on the lead. This fate was sealed when the third talented filly in the field, Walkwithapurpose, was surprisingly backed off the pace of Close Hatches. This left Princess of Sylmar in the less than ideal predicament of trying to chase Close Hatches throughout. She did, and she was good enough to challenge at the head of the stretch, but the front runner had plenty of speed in reserve, and pulled clear to win by 3 ¼ lengths. An impressive performance by the winner, in a race run in nearly identical time as Verrazano’s Wood win a few races later, but for Princess of Sylmar it served as only a tightener in advance of the Oaks.
I’ve looked forward for some time to see what Princess of Sylmar can do when she gets what I think she really wants to do … make a strong late run into a contested early pace. In the Gazelle, she got anything but that. Draw a line through that decent performance, and just wait to see what she can do with the kind of pace scenario almost guaranteed to happen in the Kentucky Oaks. At odds of around 20-1, I will be more than willing to put my money on a very live long shot.
Photo courtesy of Matt Shifman 


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Older Comments about Kentucky Oaks Dark Filly: Princess of Sylmar...

Thanks Brian. I liked her but was on the fence, but put some money on her across the Board after reading yor column. For the record I liked Beholder and Close Hatches.
I only played her because of you, thanks, Brian!
I had my doubts about the points system, but not anymore!
This year is one of the best fields I've seen in years, numerious horseshave a chance to win this year and most importantly alot of these fillies are just exuding talent and anyone of them can win and it would not be a surprise. My pick will be Midnight Lucky, Mr Baffert has a knack with these type of horses and I do believe we will be seeing something special on Ky. Oaks day
Shhhh Dont be telling people about this filly ; ) jk.. such a tough race, but shes going to be a great price, and shes good enough, so why not?
Good picture of a very good filly. Thanks, Brian!

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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