10/20/2013 1:59PM

Princess of Sylmar and the Breeders' Cup Distaff


Like most people, I prefer race horses to race, not to sit out races to protect their value or status, or to protect the stats of the people who handle them. And like most people, I want championships to be earned on the track, which in today's game, pretty much means the Breeders' Cup, given the symbiotic relationship between the two.

That said, I understand how it might seem contradictory that I have reservations about Princess of Sylmar being supplemented to the Breeders' Cup Distaff, which was made official Saturday.

Running Princess of Sylmar in the Distaff is a sporting gesture. But in a larger sense, this is also the right thing to do. Most of the time, anyway. Top horses like Princess of Sylmar are supposed to run in top races like the Distaff if they are able, and she is able. But there is something different about this particular situation. Even though her connections don't seem to have a problem with it, the risk/reward ratio for Princess of Sylmar in this venture feels all wrong.

Even before her start in last month's Grade 1 Beldame, Princess of Sylmar was the probable 3-year-old filly champion on the strength of consecutive Grade 1 victories in the Kentucky Oaks, the Coaching Club American Oaks, and the Alabama. Beholder, the active 3-year-old filly in closest hailing distance of Princess of Sylmar in an Eclipse Award sense (I realize Close Hatches fans will disagree), had only two lesser Grade 1 wins, and lost to Princess of Sylmar in the Kentucky Oaks, albeit narrowly, and in very game fashion.

The Beldame, however, was a game changer, or game clincher, or so it seemed at the time. In the Beldame, Princess of Sylmar ran right past Royal Delta, winner of the last two Distaffs, a two-time Eclipse Award winner, and a mortal lock to take another older female championship this year. Much to her credit, Beholder dispatched older opponents in the Grade 1 Zenyatta later that very day, although no older opponent anywhere close to a Royal Delta.

But by going to the Breeders' Cup, the connections of Princess of Sylmar are shouldering a significant risk. They can't win the 3-year-old filly title in the Distaff, because if Princess of Sylmar is to be the divisional champion, then she won the title before the Breeders Cup, without having to run in it. Princess of Sylmar can only lose her divisional championship by running in the Distaff, and here's how:

If Beholder wins the Distaff, and that could happen because she is, after all, a champion, and is 5 for 6 in her career on Santa Anitas main track, then Beholder will have the same number of Grade 1 wins this year as Princess of Sylmar, an even head-to-head record, and most importantly, a victory over her chief rival on the biggest stage. Beholder, like a phoenix rising, would suddenly have a very viable Eclipse Award candidacy.

Close Hatches would also suddenly have a strong title case should she win the Distaff. The Distaff would be only her third Grade 1 win of the year. But it would give Close Hatches a 2-1 head-to-head edge over Princess of Sylmar this year, as well as that invaluable win over her in the "big one."

Hey, by running in this Distaff, Princess of Sylmar also risks tarnishing her Beldame. I think Princess of Sylmar beat Royal Delta on the square that day. I think its possible, if not likely, that at this stage of their careers, Princess of Sylmar might just be better than Royal Delta. But I also get it when other people opine that Royal Delta was merely prepping in the Beldame, that she will be a much tougher customer in the Breeders' Cup while returning to a Santa Anita main track over which she won last year, and on which, notably, Princess of Sylmar has never raced.

Princess of Sylmar's Breeders' Cup venture would make much more sense if there was more at stake for her, such as, Horse of the Year honors. But even if she should win the Distaff, and things break right for her with a combination of key losses in other Breeders' Cup races, I could never support a Princess of Sylmar Horse of the Year candidacy for the simple fact that she never faced males. My Horses of the Year do not compete exclusively in restricted races, and I would hope that many other Eclipse Award voters have similar standards.

I know people will say that if Beholder or Close Hatches beats Princess of Sylmar in the Breeders' Cup, and it costs Princess of Sylmar the divisional championship, then that is as it should be. It was settled on the track. And I agree. Completely. But that is also why this might be the rare instance where, though it wouldn't be sporting, it would be understandable to pass. But she's not passing, so under the circumstances, it seems only fair to acknowledge that perhaps no horse in this Breeders' Cup has more to lose and less to gain than Princess of Sylmar.

3 Cats More than 1 year ago
remember Caleb's Posse? A lot of good winning the dirt mile in 2011 did him. Caleb's Posse did almost everything you could ask of a horse and he still got jobbed. If I was Ed, I would NOT run POS in the Breeders Cup. Like Mike said, not much to gain by running her. She already should have the division in her pocket. I mean, what more does she have to do for gosh sakes? Ed is a terrific guy and good for the sport, but I think he should have went with his original decision NOT to run POS. I wish ED and POS well and I hope this turns-out good for them both.....I really do. Good luck 'Princess'.
Joey W More than 1 year ago
I would not have supplemented her. That I know. And not at the thought of losing to rival. But at the thought I what the supplement would cost me.
Mike More than 1 year ago
Great sportsmanship on the part of Princess of Sylmar's connections. The fans get to see a great race full of great horses. That's what racing needs and should be about -- the best racing against the best. And let's don't forget, this is also a business. The first five places all get substantial paychecks. So while I doubt that's the prime motivating factor, owners must treat the sport as a business or they won't be around to participate in the future.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
What I like most about Mr. Stanco's decision is that he has apparently allowed PoS to make the decision herself. And that's ALL I ever called for him to do. What I didn't like is that it appeared that Stanco had ruled out the BC months ago, without at least seeing how the horse would train. If the reason for skipping the BC is the long campaign, shouldn't one at least see how the horse is doing? If the horse has come back bucking from the Beldame, couldn't one then use this updated information to then make a final decision on the BC? In that Stanco seems to have done this, I give him major props for being flexible and bold enough to change his mind.
Shizz's Hizzy More than 1 year ago
This sport is always better when owners of very good horses say to others of the same "my horse is better than your horse."
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
It does make it more fun.
Matthew Ellis More than 1 year ago
I think there is some upside for the Princess in respect to LEGACY. If she can take her show on the road and beat the best after the year she's had. This would have to be one of the greatest campaigns ever especially following the OAKS, G1 Sweep and Competition beat. What makes it truly remarkable is the defeat of Royal Delta who we all have deemed a GREAT ONE ! So what does that make the rival who beats the Queen ? That's Upside
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well the distaff will be the most interesting race result, but not the best betting race. You will earn your money in that race. I think the Princess should win the 3 yr old Eclipse no matter what happens and owners should be applauded for running her. The title should be won on the track and she has earned it. How do you not like any of these horses? PoS beat the best field of the year in the Ky. Oaks and the best female in RD. However, she is not a single for me. RD is still RD and did not look like herself in Beldame. Should be a wonderful race and hopefully a classic. P.S. Thanks Mike for opportunity to express our opinions,
MICHAEL More than 1 year ago
Let's see: 3 consecutive FEMALE HOY and then a miler! now more discussion for a few more females as HOY. Anybody see what ails this industry. Nothing against these very good females but....
ghost2_ More than 1 year ago
What ails this industry is that four excellent horses were named HOY? They each deserved the title! The industry has much bigger problems than the highly warranted honorings of Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Havre de Grace, and Wise Dan.
Ann Maree More than 1 year ago
With so many jumping on the Princess band-wagon, and with some thinking that Beholder will also have something to say, I wonder what would happen if Royal Delta jumped ship and ran in the Classic? Talk about rolling the dice! Something kind of fun to consider. I would think it would throw her into contention for HOY if she were to win the Classic. Also, if that were to happen, wonder who Mike Smith might ride in the Distaff? M-m-m-m-m...the possibilities and the speculation make me giddy with anticipation! Wouldn't it be fun to see what the voters would do with a 5 Grade 1 winning filly against a Classic-winning mare? Two females vying for HOY would be fun. Bring it on! Realistically, this isn't likely to happen, but sure is fun to consider and contemplate.
Shizz's Hizzy More than 1 year ago
Not only is it unlikely the powers that be would make the decision to go to the Classic, but neither the Princess or Royal Delta would stand a chance. Much too deep a Classic field for their likes.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
I would have so much respect for the connections if they ran royal delta in classic I already. Do. But she has two bad races in Dubai against the boys. Never new why they did not try her in States she could of won a grade one this year against boys IMO.
Ann Maree More than 1 year ago
You just have to throw out the two Dubai races....not her surface, long trip. What I didn't understand was why they didn't give her a shot in the U.S. running against the males instead of sending her the second time to Dubai. RD has however proved herself at the 1 1/4 mile classic distance on several occasions, so distance is not the issue for her.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
We already saw what happened in that scenario. Rachel won 5 grade 1 races in 2009, and Zenyatta won the Classic. Rachel got HoY. Of course, with 3 grade 1s against males, Rachel accomplished considerably more than PoS will. However, it is also true that Zenyatta, at 5 for 5 and 4 grade 1s, was considerably more accomplished than the 3 for 6 and 2 grade 1 Royal Delta.
tim More than 1 year ago
Nobody cares about awards. Its the results of the races that matter and live on in horse racing fan's minds. Go Princess of Sylmar. Win or lose she is the best 3 year old filly since Love Sign.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Better then 3 yo. Filly name Rachel Alexandra. I THINK NOT.HAHAHAHAHA.SMH
Jeff Jolley More than 1 year ago
I totally agree Tim. I was about to write this when I saw your comment. People are talking about 3 year old filly eclipse as if they could name more than one of the last 20 winners. Writers covering this sport should remember that it is the races that matter and etch memories, not the awards.