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Kentucky Oaks upset: Princess of Sylmar scores for Pletcher
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Todd Pletcher was expected to win the 139th running of the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, but not the way he did it. Not even close.
Princess of Sylmar, dismissed at 38-1, rallied strongest of all under Mike Smith and ran down a gritty Beholder to capture the Grade 1, $1 million Oaks by a half-length Friday before an ontrack crowd of 113,820.
Princess of Sylmar, a Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Majestic Warrior, was bred and is owned by the King of Prussia Stable of Ed Stanco. The chestnut filly returned $79.60 to win after finishing the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:49.17 over a fast track. The win mutuel was the largest in the Oaks since Lemons Forever scored at 45-1 in 2006.
Princess of Sylmar was one of four trained by Pletcher in a field of 10 3-year-old fillies. Pletcher also had the 3-2 favorite, Dreaming of Julia, who endured a rough trip when fourth, just a head behind her stablemate, Unlimited Budget, who was two lengths behind Beholder as the 4-1 third choice. The other Pletcher trainee, Silsita, finished last at 45-1.
For Smith, the 47-year-old Hall of Fame jockey whose lone Kentucky Derby victory came in 2005 aboard a 50-1 shot, Giacomo, winning the Oaks was a sweet ride indeed.
“I’ve always wanted to win this race so bad, and I’d never even been close,” he said.
Pletcher watched the race in the horsemen’s lounge adjacent to the paddock.
“Hey man, we won the Oaks,” he said while walking to the winner’s circle. “We’ll take it. We’re not going to complain, but I feel bad for Dreaming of Julia because she really had a tough trip.”
Under cloudy skies and amid seasonal temperatures, Midnight Lucky, the 3-1 second choice, sped to the lead from post 2, with Beholder (9-1) lapped onto her outside flank. Meanwhile, Dreaming of Julia was closer to the back after getting away from the gate in a tangle that also involved Princess of Sylmar, Pure Fun, and Rose to Gold.
“Dreaming of Julia probably got the worst of it,” said Pletcher.
Leaving the backstretch, as Beholder and jockey Garrett Gomez moved up with a stern challenge for the lead, Dreaming of Julia and jockey John Velazquez again found trouble, checking sharply on heels. In the meantime, Princess of Sylmar, after biding her time in ninth, was moving up trouble-free while racing several paths off the rail.
“She was really handling the track well,” said Smith. “I knew they were going pretty fast and maybe they’d be coming back to me in time.”
After straightening up, Beholder put away Midnight Lucky and passed the furlong pole with a clear lead and under a fierce drive. But then Princess of Sylmar, with Smith using a stinging right-handed whip, came with the winning run on the outside.
“Once I showed her out, she was gone,” said Smith.
Pletcher had seriously contemplated not even entering Princess of Sylmar in the Oaks until the filly went well in her second of two breezes over the Churchill surface last Saturday.
“I didn’t like her first work,” he said. “Her second work was really good. We decided to take a shot. Sometimes you’ve got take a shot.”
The Oaks marked the seventh career start for Princess of Sylmar. She lost her career debut in October when facing state-breds at Penn National, then reeled off four straight wins, the last three over the inner track at Aqueduct. In her final Oaks prep, she finished a well-beaten second to another Oaks filly, Close Hatches, in the April 6 Gazelle over the Aqueduct main track. Close Hatches was never a factor when finishing seventh Friday as the 7-1 fourth choice.
“If you looked at her form, she looked really good,” noted Smith. “That just tells you how extremely talented this field was.”
The Oaks was worth $589,000 to Stanco, who spoke at length at the post-race press conference, and improved the filly’s bankroll to $827,220. It was her first graded stakes win.
After Dreaming of Julia, the complete order was Midnight Lucky, Pure Fun, Close Hatches, Rose to Gold, Seaneen Girl, and Silsita.
This was the third Oaks victory for Pletcher, following Ashado (2004) and Rags to Riches (2007). The future Hall of Famer now has a chance to do what only two other trainers have done: sweep the Oaks and Derby in the same year. H.J. “Derby Dick” Thompson did it in 1933 and Ben Jones in 1952. Pletcher will run a record-tying five starters in the Derby on Saturday: Revolutionary, Overanalyze, Palace Malice, Verrazano, and Charming Kitten.
Smith rides Palace Malice in the Derby and will bid to become the first jockey to sweep both races since Calvin Borel became the seventh to do so in 2009.
The $2 exacta (6-3) paid $727; the $1 trifecta (6-3-4) returned $1,535.40; the $1 superfecta (6-3-4-8) was worth $6,222.50; and the $1 Super High Five (6-3-4-8-2) paid $18,663.90.
– additional reporting by David Grening
No mention anywhere but Pletcher was 1/2 length short of winning 3 races when Fusaichiswonderful just missed in the Eight Belles. Ironically enough, FW was Authenticity's workmate for the last 2 weeks Pletcher spent at Palm Meadows and then was Princess of Sylmar's workmate the past 2 weeks at Churchill. She was a very unlucky 2nd.
When money on the line never discount MIKE SMITH!!!!!
PIC 3 WILL PAYS?? Where can we find them 2mrw?
would love to see Dreaming of Julia in the Travers
amazing to me are the comments knocking Julia... wth, did any of you watch that race. Credit to the winners, but how can a horse get pinballed at the start, then slam on the brakes to avoid clipping heels, and have any opportunity to win. Finishing fourth itself was miraculous with that poor start and atrocious "ride" from JV. I still believe she's the best 3yr old in the country, male or female. Here's hoping Pletcher get adventurous and places her up against the boys in the Preakness or Belmont.
I loved Princess of Sylmar. I'm alive in pick 3 to POE and WD to 8 12 16 Hit the tri snd super. Hated DOJ. Knew shed bounce. YEAH RIGHT!!! Everyone here is a LIAR!!! REDBOARDERS UNITE
Anyone know the total pool of the Pick 3 (Oaks/Woodford/Derby)?
I bet $200.00 to win on Beholder and almost threw-up as they reached the gate and Beholder bucked a bit and fell on her hind quarters dumping Gomez. She looked great in the paddock, but got wound up as soon as they hit the track. Great run from her. Taking my lumps here.
Great race by the Princess! I liked this filly a LOT all through the winter at the Big A, but admittedly got off her bandwagon a bit after the Gazelle, and the connections' wavering about whether to even start her in the Oaks. But she gave a gutty performance today. Big shout-out to PA-breds, adding to their great record in recent Oaks. The PA-bred program is really beginning to take off.
Wow! THE supposed race of the weekend didn't quite turn out that way. Many, many disappointments here.