It might make some owners nervous when their horse is assigned morning line odds of 20-1 in a major race. But Aron Wellman of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, which co-campaigns Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) hopeful Silsita, is happy to have longshot status leading up to the May 3 Run for the Lilies.
"This is a crazy field...there are seven or eight fillies that any other year would be standouts in the race," said Wellman, a former California attorney and one-time vice president of Team Valor International. "We're certainly going to be a longshot, but we don't mind flying underneath the radar and are hoping to catch them by surprise."
Silsita, a daughter of Macho Uno , was bred in Kentucky by minority co-owner Camil Torbay's Tanourin Stable. The Florida-based operation raced the gray or roan filly in her career debut as a juvenile, a nose victory in a 1 1/16-mile maiden turf contest at Calder Casino & Race Course, where she caught the eye of Wellman.
"She did a lot of things in her debut that horses are just not supposed to do," said Wellman, who acquired a majority interest in Silsita after that race. "For a 2-year-old filly to debut going a route of ground on the turf over a demanding turf course like Calder's was very impressive; I loved the way she traveled throughout the race.
"She showed me a really nice burst of speed and acceleration that I like to see in the horses we acquire," Wellman continued. "She also showed an amazing amount of courage because she was bottled up and there was a very narrow opening at the top of the stretch down along the hedge...and she accelerated through what was a very narrow gap at the three-sixteenth pole.
"She made me believe she was a filly capable of getting two turns, that she had a turn of foot, and she had the desire to be a racehorse and win races and overcome some adversity."
Wellman had already deemed Silsita a Kentucky Oaks prospect when he first presented her to his partners.
"Everybody thought a filly that won on the grass first time out at Calder by a nose couldn't possibly be Kentucky Oaks caliber, but fortunately, she didn't make me look like a fool," said Wellman.
Since racing for Eclipse, Silsita finished fourth in an allowance optional claiming contest on the Gulfstream Park main track, followed by a third-place effort in a one-mile turf contest at the South Florida track. One of four Oaks fillies trained by Todd Pletcher, she will enter the Oaks off a hard-fought nose victory in the March 23 Fathead Bourbonette Oaks (gr. III) at Turfway Park. Silsita has earned $84,725 from her four starts.
"This may be the most star-studded, talent-rich edition of the Oaks in my lifetime and this will be my 35th Oaks," said Wellman, a native of Los Angeles and the son of longtime Thoroughbred breeders and owners, Michael and Cory Wellman. "We realize we are facing an incredibly deep group of phenomenal fillies, but we're looking at this as a nothing to lose and everything to gain-type situation by trying the Oaks."
Wellman said Silsita had been working well at Churchill, where she will race for the first time in the Oaks.
Produced by the Wild Again mare Naturally Wild, Silsita will be ridden by two-time Oaks-winning rider Gary Stevens (Silverbulletday in 1999 and Tiffany Lass in 1986) and will have to overcome the daunting rail post.
"Gary Stevens breezed her the other day and loved what he felt, which gives us confidence," Wellman said. "She's got a wonderful constitution; she's very intelligent, and very professional. Whether she's got the quality and the talent to be able to make an impact in the race remains to be seen, but Todd thinks it's worth a shot. We're looking at this as an opportunity to hit one out of the park."