07/20/2013 7:11PM

Saratoga: Princess of Sylmar dominates Coaching Club American Oaks

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Barbara D. Livingston
Princess of Sylmar wins Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga by six lengths.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Todd Pletcher had an embarrassment of riches with his 3-year-old fillies this year, but it was the diamond in the rough who has climbed to the top of the division.

Confirming her 38-1 upset victory in the Kentucky Oaks 11 weeks ago, Princess of Sylmar cemented her status as the leader of the division with an authoritative six-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga.

My Happy Face, who got loose on an uncontested lead, held second by 1 3/4 lengths over Marathon Lady. Cue the Moon was fourth, followed by Unlimited Budget, the Fair Grounds Oaks winner, also trained by Pletcher, who was the 6-5 favorite.

The win gave Pletcher a sweep of Saturday’s three stakes at Saratoga. He won the Grade 3, $200,000 Shuvee with Authenticity and the $100,000 My Princess Jess with Silsita, one of four fillies Pletcher ran in the Kentucky Oaks that was billed as one of the best Oaks in years, though Princess of Sylmar was viewed as an outsider.

“Everyone lost sight of the fact going into the Kentucky Oaks it was billed as the best Oaks we’ve seen in 25 years,” Pletcher said. “This filly wins it, virtually gets no respect. I think today she put herself at the top of the leader board and now everyone understands the Kentucky Oaks was a real race.”

[SARATOGA 2013: Complete meet coverage, exclusive DRF videos]

Princess of Sylmar, a Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Majestic Warrior, added the Coaching Club to not only her Kentucky Oaks victory, but wins in the Busher and Busanda over Aqueduct’s inner track during the winter. Her only loss this year came when she finished second to Close Hatches in the Grade 2 Gazelle.

“People that were at Aqueduct and saw her races were more impressed than people that don’t play close attention to Aqueduct in the winter, because even though they were not against the best fillies in the country they were very impressive performances,” said Pletcher, who also trains top 3-year-old fillies Dreaming of Julia and Kauai Katie.

Saturday, Princess of Sylmar was equally impressive. Instructed by Pletcher to be patient, jockey Javier Castellano had Princess of Sylmar last in the field of five, but only four lengths off the lead while My Happy Face, under Joel Rosario, set fractions of 24.60 seconds for the quarter, and 48.98 for the half-mile.

Entering the far turn – and after My Happy Face ran six furlongs in 1:12.94 – Princess of Sylmar dragged Castellano three wide, just outside of My Happy Face and Marathon Lady.

Straightening away in the stretch, Castellano began to ask Princess of Sylmar for run, and she floated away from the competition. Princess of Sylmar, owned by Ed Stanco’s King of Prussia Stable, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.07 over a main track labeled good. She returned $6.30 as the second choice.

“At the three-eighths pole, she wanted to go by really quick,” Castellano said. “I tried to ride a little more patient. I thought it was too early to pass the horses, I was afraid to hang in the last sixteenth, but she didn’t.”

Chad Brown, trainer of My Happy Face, said his filly had no excuses.

“If you told me in the paddock I was going to get a 48-and-change half uncontested, sign me up, I would have felt real good about my chances,” Brown said. “The winner was super impressive today.”

Unlimited Budget, who was third in the Kentucky Oaks and sixth in the Belmont Stakes, hit the side of the gate and was off last. She raced in fourth position while along the rail, but that’s not where she was supposed to be.

“It all went wrong right at the start, we were anticipating being in a close stalking position with her,” Pletcher said.

Princess of Sylmar will return in the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama on Aug. 17.