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Breeders' Cup 2017

Princess of Sylmar and Beholder shine against their elders

Gone are the days when fall was the season of facing new challenges. Before the rise of slots funded purses and the decrease in number of starts per year, three-year olds faced their elders on a regular basis as the leaves began to change and summer lazily drifted into fall. Championship caliber horses took their game to their elders, and some such as Kelso came away victorious while others such as Spectacular Bid gave it a darn good try but finished second best. In those days it was not enough for a three-year old to just be the best of the division. In order for their accomplishments to be given serious merit, they needed to have stepped outside of their division with success.
These days you don’t often see three-year olds stepping outside of their division prior to the Breeders’ Cup races due to the allure of $1 million races such as the Cotillion and the Pennsylvania Derby that are restricted to 3-year olds. Rather than having their fillies or colts step up prior to when it’s absolutely necessary, owners and trainers choose to take the easier route and the easier money. Why push them to probably only run for second or third money when they can easily win first money elsewhere? When you do see 3-year olds step outside their division, however, it usually doesn’t result in a win, at least not recently.
Yesterday was thankfully a whole different story. Super Saturday featured no less than 10 Grade 1 stakes races split between Belmont Park and Santa Anita. A majority of those stakes were billed for 3-year olds and upward, and rather than seeing solely older runners in these spots, a handful of 3-year olds were peppered in there. Some like Palace Malice ran well without actually getting the win, but when it came to statement making performances, it was that 3-year old fillies that stood out.
The most anticipated match-up of the week was the first performance of the day, and it featured racing’s newest royalty Princess of Sylmar attempting to best a two-time champion in the G1 Beldame. Earlier in the year, not many had heard of the Pennsylvania bred filly who was actually left behind when trainer Todd Pletcher took his string to Florida, but in just a few short months, The Princess went from a virtual unknown to a star in her own right. After dominating her divisional rivals in three of the most important races for 3-year old fillies, there was only one other thing she could do to prove that she was a legitimate star: face her elders and beat them.
She did not face just any field of elders. No, she took her challenge directly to the two-time Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Royal Delta. Many said there was no way The Princess could beat Royal Delta because the older mare was just too good. She did not just beat her foes, she ran them into submission. When the dust settled, however, it was Princess of Sylmar that came away the winner. After tracking Royal Delta through the early stages of the race, Princess drew on even terms with her during the stretch drive before drawing away to win by two. It did indeed take a champion to beat a champion.
Not to be outdone, West Coast 3-year old filly standout Beholder equaled Princess of Sylmar’s victory over elders with a scintillating performance of her own. The lone 3-year old in the G1 Zenyatta Stakes faced a field of graded stakes winning older fillies and mares. Unlike on the opposite coast, this race was more than just a two horse affair. These were all serious contenders, and only a special 3-year old field would be able to do it. As it turns out, Beholder was just such a filly. Breaking on top, the West Coast star streaked straight to the lead and never relinquished it, crossing the wire a 1 ¼-length winner.
While the field Beholder faced was a very solid field, her feat paled in comparison to what Princess of Sylmar had accomplished earlier in the afternoon. Royal Delta’s trainer Bill Mott pointed out after the race that he had more Breeders’ Cup by losing the Beldame than by winning it, a sure indication that Royal Delta hadn’t been trained to peak in this spot. That does not in any way, however, diminish the quality of The Princess’ victory. Royal Delta has run other fields into submission with hardly any effort in previous races, so it truly would take a special filly or mare to beat her. It is no wonder that for most of the year, the 3-year old fillies have outshone their male counterparts. When it came right down to it, the ladies were able to face and defeat their elders while the boys, except for Palace Malice, struggled to hold their own.
With 5 weeks left to the Breeders’ Cup, racing fans are anxious to see all the stars align. Unfortunately, as of right now, a rematch between Royal Delta and Princess of Sylmar seems unlikely. The owners of King of Prussia Stable want to make sure they have their star around for her 4-year old season and will only ship to Santa Anita if they feel the Beldame did not take too much out of their filly. For all intents and purposes, yesterday’s race was Princess of Sylmar’s Breeders’ Cup race, and she all but locked up divisional year-end honors. Regardless, though, I would love nothing more than to see a rematch of the nation’s leading ladies when they are both at their absolute best and everything is on the line. For this is what horse racing is all about. Champions facing champions. 


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Older Comments about Princess of Sylmar and Beholder shine against their elders...

Vic, i did not bet that race, i bet the double into that race from the race before.Had multiple doubles with the Princess (paying $52.00 ) and Royal Delta (paying $28 ) had equal DDs'. who would you be rooting for.I would never of bet the race by itself.
tou BET that race? at those ODDS? Wow I would not tell too many about that
Let see, EVERY jock I have interviewed agrees with how little the rider actually means to a win and then WHO am I to believe? the eperienced rider or a grandstander?
Vic, i am not using it as an excuse.But i agree. Smitty was a little to aggressive when he should of waited. I said that earlier and i will say it again. Not sour grapes either. I collected better by the Princess winning ,than if RD won. I have been one of the few defending the Princess all summer. Just my opinion in watching the race over and over
The very best riders, in the rarified air of prodigies, a la Laffit, did it less than other but ALL do it
McCarron on ALysheba in Bet Twice;s Belmont, Forty Niner's Breeder's Cup Classic with Julie Krone...there are hundreds of examples...Smith on Royal Delta for another
I agree, the rider can screw up sometimes.
Like I have said, will say and always say: all the rider can do is be a good passenger and it often VERY often (and this has been substantiated by many riders I have talked to) is only make the horse have LESS of a change than just being there
Should I copy and pace all the comments about Jockey don't make a difference? If the horse is good enough s/he will recover the jockey error? It seem like you are suffer from selected amnesia or is that old age kicking in and you can't remember what the heck you're saying anymore with all the bull shit that is spewing out of your mouth? Here is what you need to do now, take a notepad and right down all your thoughts and points and stick to it. Don't contradict yourself.
NOT the greatest ride by a rider who should have KNOWN a presser would be hanging off his flank down the lane.....Her move looked like it surprised him from a sleep!
Brian, one of the neat things about the Princess's rise to stardom, is to have one of my best cash days ever, on her when she won the Ky Oaks @ 38-1. Everything she accomplishes from that point forward, makes me feel as if I possibly knew of her when very few else did. You know I'll be rooting for her!!!
The Era of the Filly continues!

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