07/08/2014 12:12PM

Jerardi: Princess of Sylmar, Ben’s Cat rightfully continue to turn heads

Barbara D. Livingston
Ben's Cat will start on Saturday at Parx Racing in the Parx Dash, a race he has won in each of the last two years.

One of the best horses ever born in Pennsylvania will be running in Delaware this Saturday. One of the best horses ever born in Maryland will be running in Pennsylvania the same day.

The Pennsylvania-bred Princess of Sylmar and the Maryland-bred Ben’s Cat could not be much different in terms of style, history, or the types of races they run in. What they have in common is winning. What they also are likely to have in common by Saturday evening is more than $2 million in career earnings.

Princess of Sylmar will be going after the Delaware Handicap, while Ben’s Cat will be going after the Parx Dash, a race he has won in each of the last two years after losing a photo in the race back in 2011.

Princess of Sylmar, a 4-year-old filly named after the farm where she was born and went through her early training, the Houghton family’s Christiana, Pa., showplace named after PennSYLvania and MARyland (the site of their first farm), will be going for her fifth Grade 1 win after her legendary four-race run through the Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks, Alabama, and Beldame last year. She will be racing the American classic distance of 1 1/4 miles.

Ben’s Cat, an 8-year-old gelding, will be going after win No. 27 and stakes win No. 22 in career race No. 41, running in his specialty, the grass sprint.

“We’re really looking forward to the Del Cap,” said Ed Stanco, who, along with five partners, owns Princess of Sylmar.

The Delaware Handicap is a race Stanco and partners have targeted since last fall. The owner knows the history and would love to see his filly become part of it.

Princess of Sylmar will have a serious following. Stanco figures there were 100 family members and friends at Belmont Park to see her just miss in the Ogden Phipps on Belmont Stakes Day. There could be 500 at Delaware Park.

“My wife says everybody in the neighborhood will be there,” said Stanco, who does not live far from Delaware Park in a Philadelphia suburb. “Half of Coatesville is gonna be there.”

Sylmar Farm is about 15 miles southwest of Coatesville, surrounded by Amish and in no danger of ever changing. Stanco asked for permission to name the filly after the farm. She is the marketing campaign that never lets up.

Princess of Sylmar has run 13 times, with nine wins and two seconds. Only running out of ground after starting slowly got her beat in her debut, but she closed strongly in that 5 1/2-furlong maiden race. The only time she did not fire was in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, where she finished last.

“I saw her the day before the Breeders’ Cup, and she was fine,” Stanco said. “That Friday, when they brought her out, she was soaking wet. In the paddock, she just didn’t look herself. Even my granddaughter, who is 7, said, ‘How come ‘Princess’ isn’t looking at me?’ She was sort of fumbling around. Then, of course, she tripped out of the gate.”

It could have been the Southern California heat. It could have been the travel and the campaign.

“I will never know,” Stanco said.

Princess of Sylmar was sent to Kentucky after the race to be checked out.

“We tested her,” Stanco said. “She had some soreness, but no injuries, just from the long campaign. We had her at WinStar until March.”

Stanco, of course, did not have to run Princess of Sylmar in the Breeders’ Cup. It really looked like she had the 3-year-old filly championship wrapped up. It was a late decision to supplement her.

“If we didn’t go, two things would have happened,” Stanco said. “Beholder would still get the award, and rightfully so. And the other thing that would have happened was I would have regretted it for the rest of my life.”

Princess of Sylmar looked just like her old self when she won a minor stakes April 6 and did everything but win the Phipps.

Princess of Sylmar will be an overwhelming favorite in the Delaware Handicap. It’s hard to imagine her getting beat at 1 1/4 miles, where there is more than enough time for the best horse to get position and make her move.

Ben’s Cat will have just five furlongs to get there against some very strong competition, including Tightend Touchdown and Marchman. More can go wrong in such a short race. With Ben’s Cat, however, even when things go wrong, the horse often makes them right in the end.

So, Princess of Sylmar at Delaware and Ben’s Cat at Parx. Enjoy.