08/15/2013 4:21PM

Saratoga: Princess of Sylmar should appreciate longer distance in Alabama Stakes

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Here’s a scary thought: As good as Princess of Sylmar has been in races up to 1 1/8 miles, her trainer, Todd Pletcher, believes she may not have run a race at her preferred distance yet.

“She’s a filly we always felt wanted to run as far as they write dirt races for fillies,” Pletcher said Thursday. “I actually think the mile and a quarter is maybe going to be her best distance.”

Princess of Sylmar will get the opportunity to prove her five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer correct when she gets to run 1 1/4 miles for the first time in Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga. Princess of Sylmar will face five rivals – only one of whom has won a graded stakes – in the 133rd Alabama, which shares top billing with the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational at 1 1/2 miles on turf. Both races will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network from 5-6 p.m. Eastern.

Princess of Sylmar, a Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Majestic Warrior, will try to add the Alabama to a r é sum é that includes wins in the Kentucky Oaks and Coaching Club American Oaks. Open Mind, the champion 3-year-old filly in 1989, was the last filly to win all three of those races.

Pletcher, who also is saddling longshot Galloping Giraffe, will try to add the Alabama to his r é sum é , as he is winless with 11 starters in nine runnings of this prestigious race, with two seconds and three thirds.

A victory in the Alabama could very well seal an Eclipse Award for Princess of Sylmar, who also won two listed stakes at Aqueduct during the winter and finished second to Close Hatches in the Grade 2 Gazelle in April.

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“I see a scenario where if she wins the Alabama, she would be very, very difficult to dethrone from championship honors,” Pletcher said. “We’ll worry about that if it happens. By winning those three races consecutively, someone would have to do something remarkable at the end of the year to top that.”

Princess of Sylmar has been topping herself all year. She was dynamic in winning the Busher and Busanda stakes, efforts that were unheralded because they occurred over Aqueduct’s inner track. In the Kentucky Oaks, she rallied from well off the pace to win by a half-length over Beholder, last year’s champion 2-year-old filly.

Following a two-month freshening, Princess of Sylmar dominated the Coaching Club American Oaks here by six lengths.

“I think it was arguably her best race so far,” Pletcher said. “She drew away convincingly the last part of the race, and she seemed to really get over the surface well.”

Princess of Sylmar has shown the ability to win from off the pace whether the pace was slow (as in the Busher), rapid (as in the Kentucky Oaks), or modest (as in the CCA Oaks). On Saturday, the potential is there for a strong early pace with Fiftyshadesofhay, Carnival Court, and Montana Native in the field.

“I think this filly has such a good finish, it’s almost a turf-like turn of foot the last part of the race,” Pletcher said. “We’ll let her be happy and get a good position and hope she delivers the same kind of kick she has been.”

Javier Castellano rides Princess of Sylmar from post 4.

The Alabama could be Princess of Sylmar’s last race of 2013. She is not nominated for the Breeders’ Cup and is unlikely to be supplemented, at least this year, by owner Edward Stanco. The $1 million Cotillion at Parx Racing is run at 1 1/16 miles and comes back in four weeks, either of which could be deterrents, according to Pletcher.

Fiftyshadesofhay is the only other graded stakes winner in the Alabama field, having taken the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan and the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks, both since blinkers have been added, which have served to better focus the filly, according to trainer Bob Baffert.

Fiftyshadesofhay won the Black-Eyed Susan from off the pace, but Baffert believes the filly’s best chance of winning Saturday will come in a front-running fashion.

Baffert said he will instruct jockey John Velazquez “to put her on the lead and take them as far as we can.”

Carnival Court, a half-sister to 2011 Alabama winner Royal Delta, makes her stakes debut after two consecutive wins at Belmont. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who won the Alabama last year with Questing, believes the distance of the Alabama will favor his filly.

“She’s bred to get the mile and a quarter,” said McLaughlin, who will put Carnival Court on Lasix for the first time after she bled in a recent workout. “We thought we have a chance to get a Grade 1-placing, you never know what might happen,”

Tell a Great Story, a daughter of Bluegrass Cat, had an extremely wide trip when third in the Delaware Oaks last out. Her trainer, Ignacio Correas IV, believes his filly also wants the distance of the Alabama.

“The way she’s bred, the way she gallops, we always thought she could go forever,” said Correas, whose filly will break from the rail under Jose Lezcano. “But it’s the Alabama – you need to go forever with class. We need to find out if she has that kind of class.”

B More than 1 year ago
Shame that none of the other better three year olds won't step up to the challenge of taking this prestigious event and not closing the doors on themselves for possible Eclipse consideration. We've had some nice horses this year, but I don't recall a year in which so many major races have had such overall lackluster fields. Where are the sportsmen in this profession? Everyone keeps taking the easy way out and in turn, cause question marks about what their horses have actually accomplished when facing such mediocre competition.
mikey More than 1 year ago
Isn't that the truth....when was the last time we really had a grade 1 field?....they are just ducking each other....then shoot for a mediocre G1 field that they can put in their overrated resume.....
Matthew Ellis More than 1 year ago
Scared of PLETCHER MORE PLETCHER
Malihe Yahyavi More than 1 year ago
Fiftyshadesofhay a lock
Michael Castellano More than 1 year ago
To finish second,that is.
Matthew Ellis More than 1 year ago
MORE PLETCHER
muskierob More than 1 year ago
No money to be made in the Alabama. Just sit back and enjoy Sylmar's destruction.
Joyce Johnson Groome More than 1 year ago
I was so hoping she would go to The Cotillion! Living not far from Parx, where Smarty Jones came from! It would have been awesome!!! Especially the bonus that a Pa. bred gets for winning! I'm a little surprised that they aren't considering it! I think I would wait and see who is gonna run in it! I understand though, the shorter distance concern but I remember when horses could run under 5 weeks! The race would be the 21st of September...it's closer to 5 weeks than 4! Oh well! One can only hope they reconsider!
Michael Castellano More than 1 year ago
On paper the race is a walk over. It's certainly not going to be much of a betting race unless you think there's someone in the race that can pull a huge upset. As long as the favorite runs her race, no one can beat her. If ever there was a race to pick a short priced exacta, this is one.
B More than 1 year ago
Too bad the other good three year old fillies are just going to hand her the Eclipse by not running here. Another one of those lopsided races unless Fiftyshadesofhay improves further.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As self proclaimed President of the Unofficial Princess of Sylmar Fan Club, I have honored her all month long on Twitter in prep for her Alabama win. Come on and join the Sylmar fun on her incredible campaign onto and Eclipse and BC win. Bring on Royal Delta!!!! @muskierob
muskierob More than 1 year ago
Here I am. I posted before I logged in thru Twitter. Go Sylmar!!!!
akhiym james More than 1 year ago
No breeders cup she's not nominated and owner doesn't want to pay a huge supplemental fee
muskierob More than 1 year ago
So the only way is to win the Beldame in Sept. for that is a win and your in race. Though I believe that if they polish off 2 more races that they will pay the fee to run in the BC for $2,000,000.
tim More than 1 year ago
Easy race for Todd. Call him George Clooney, master of Grade 1s.
Jacqueline Schumacher More than 1 year ago
Ten furlongs is now "forever". I guess that means Shuvee's two wins in the sixteen furlong JCGC is defined as "forever-plus-six". A CCA Oaks that isn't twelve furlongs is a CCA Oaks in name only.
mikey More than 1 year ago
Just have to shake your head.....even the Personal Ensign has been shortened to 9 furlongs!!....10 furlongs is a staggerfest for these horses.....hardly any thoroughbred being bred today.....imo the female bloodline is better than the male line.....but keep it quwayet....
mikey More than 1 year ago
that is why imo this industry survival is going to be tough.....the only race the mainstream media and street folks hear about now is the Kentucky Derby.....no new fans getting into this game but a few still squeezing this turnip
Jacqueline Schumacher More than 1 year ago
I think I know why the Personal Ensign was shortened, and it's the same reason that the JCGC was shortened to 10 furlongs: a big horse failed. I was there to see Rachael Alexandra fight with Life At Ten, and then hit the wall at 9 furlongs. Sure, she was past her prime, and had to run hard to keep the lead, but when she hit that furlong pole she was done--the last furlong was sad to watch, with her staggering, and that Phipps plodder loping by. So because RA couldn't win at ten panels, Personal Ensign's race must be too long. Great logic.
mikey More than 1 year ago
Basically they are just breeding frail sprinters and milers. You are right in that the horses they breed can look good going 9 panels...Don't want to make that big horse stagger in the last furlong...Pretty soon they would have to shorten the PE to 8.5 furlongs and call the winner a champion or something like that. I don't know if you been watching the last few Travers but these horses look pretty pitiful finishing. Oh well, the goal today is buy a speedy precocious 2 year old and then win ONE G1 and off to the breeding shed. This industry is looking bleak. When all the real customers are gone (bettors) them investors can buy horses and run against each other on a private track!!
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Rachael was absolutely not past her prime at the age of four. At three she was leaps ahead of the other filies. Horses are still developing and filling out through age three. By four a few others caught up with her. Prime potential is at about 5.
mikey More than 1 year ago
Plenty of debate whether she was past her prime but on paper I have to agree with you...she had one of her best beyer in 2010 and one of the fastest time at CD....she was just not a classic 10 furlongs thoroughbred....she was a 9 furlongs horse.....and yes the other females caught up to her....plenty just do not want to accept she was never a 10 furlongs thoroughbred
Mike Miller More than 1 year ago
Amen!!! When a middle distance race like 1 1/4 miles is what passes for distance, you know that the breed is in trouble.
mikey More than 1 year ago
Not only the breed but the industry....the industry was on mainstream news because of the great events like the Big Cap, Triple Crown races and then the triple Handicap...that meant big publicity that pulled in new fans into the teller windows.....but the industry bred away from these prestigious events and therefore the mainstream publicity died...now all you got is the Kentucky Derby....sure there are other problems but the industry forgot to showcase the thoroughbred instead weant for the frail speed that don't last long enough to attrack media attention....
Matthew Ellis More than 1 year ago
What Breed there all KITTEN JOYS LOL