08/25/2011 11:53AM

Charles Town: Vega thinking big with returning Princess Cecilia


Saturday night’s $50,000 Sylvia Bishop Memorial Stakes at Charles Town is designed as a local prep for West Virginia-bred 3-year-old fillies pointing to the $85,000 West Virginia Division of Tourism on the Oct. 15 West Virginia Breeders’ Classic program.

But Parx Racing-based trainer Richard Vega is targeting an even bigger payday for his undefeated but long-absent filly Princess Cecilia.

Given time off to recuperate from nagging foot problems following four straight wins as a 2-year-old, Princess Cecilia will seek to use Saturday’s seven-furlong Sylvia Bishop as a stepping-stone to the $400,000 Charles Town Oaks on Sept. 17.

Princess Cecilia, last year’s West Virginia-bred 2-year-old filly champion, won four straight races between her career debut in a maiden claimer at Parx last September and the Eleanor Casey Memorial in mid-December. But Vega had to give her an extended break because of her tender feet.

“Right now she’s fine, but after her last race, she came back a little ouchy, and we started having some problems with her feet,” Vega said. “She made enough money for us last year that we could take some time with bringing her back.”

Vega is confident that Princess Cecilia, who tuned up for her 3-year-old debut by working a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.20 from the gate on Monday, will run well off an eight-month layoff, he acknowledges that there are bigger goals ahead.

“I think she’s pretty tight and ready for this one,” Vega said. “But, if she wins and comes out of the race right, we’ll definitely point her towards the Charles Town Oaks.”

Princess Cecilia’s six rivals in the Sylvia Bishop include Won’t Be Denied, who stretches out beyond 4 1/2 furlongs for the first time after winning three straight this season and 4 of 6 overall, and Blushing B.J., who comes off a career-best 68 Beyer Speed Figure for her win going seven furlongs in a second-level allowance in late July.

Won’t Be Denied won the It’s Been Too Long in her stakes debut in May and most recently scored by two lengths facing open company in an allowance.

Blushing B.J. is 2 for 2 in her career going seven furlongs and was second, beaten a half-length, by Princess Cecilia in last fall’s Triple Crown Nutrition on the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic card.