05/03/2013 7:06PM

Kentucky Oaks: Princess of Sylmar gives Pennsylvania-bred program another marquee victory

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Michael Amoruso
Princess of Sylmar is the second Pennsylvania-bred to take the Kentucky Oaks in the last three years.

Princess of Sylmar’s upset victory in the Kentucky Oaks added yet another feather to the cap of the Pennsylvania-bred program on a national stage.

The Majestic Warrior filly became the second Pennsylvania-bred to win the Oaks in the past three years, following in the footsteps of Plum Pretty in 2011. Princess of Sylmar is the fourth Oaks winner in the race’s 139-year history to hail from the Keystone State, also joining 1922 winner Startle, and Cream in 1913.

“Anything that publicizes the quality of the horses that we breed in Pennsylvania is a great thing,” said Richard Abbott, secretary of the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association. “It’s a great place to raise horses, and anything that draws attention to that is good. It’s a great boost to our credibility.”

Princess of Sylmar was homebred by Ed Stanco, CEO of Pennsylvania-based White Mountain Insurance Company, who races under the name King of Prussia Stable. The filly made her first two starts at Penn National Race Course, finishing fourth in a state-bred race in her debut, then winning by 19 lengths against open company. Stanco said that foaling Princess of Symlar in Pennsylvania made for a good contingency plan if the filly did not succeed when they made the jump to higher-level racing.

"Our plan has always been, right from the very beginning, we'd take her and she'd go to [trainer Todd Pletcher] and if she was good, we'd stay there,” Stanco said. “And if not, we'd go back to Pennsylvania. We had her as a Pennsylvania-bred so we could pick up that little 20 percent bonus in a claiming race. ... Well, guess what? That's not going to happen."

The Pennsylvania breeding program has seen a resurgence over the past decade due, in large part, to the addition of casino gaming at the state’s racetracks in 2006, which helped create a lucrative incentive program for breeders. From the time the racino legislation was first passed in 2004, the number of Pennsylvania-breds increased from 1,027 to a high of 1,753 in 2007.

Princess of Sylmar was one of 1,650 Pennsylvania-breds born in 2010. The state currently hovers around three percent of the national foal crop.

While the Oaks win gives Pennsylvania’s breeding industry another high-profile victory to add to its resume, Abbott was unsure if it would drastically increase outside interest in the Pennsylvania-bred program.

“The breeding program is geared, like any breeding program toward horses that race in the state,” he said. “One of the stated purposes of the program is to encourage people to foal and race in Pennsylvania, so I don’t think that winning huge races like that has the effect of people saying ‘I want to foal my horse in Pennsylvania.’ It just demonstrates that good horses can be raised here, but that’s been demonstrated so many times before, with Storm Cat, Lyphard and Smarty Jones.”