Princess of Sylmar, who won a pair of stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack before going on to win four grade I races during her 2013 season, will return to the track April 6 to make her 4-year-old debut in the $100,000 Cat Cay.
The Cat Cay, a one-mile race around one turn on the main track for older fillies and mares, also attracted grade III winner Wedding Toast. She also will be returning from a layoff and making her first start as a 4-year-old Sunday.
Princess of Sylmar romped in both the Busanda and Busher, contested over Aqueduct's inner track, in early 2013 before finishing second in the Gazelle (gr. II) on the main track in April. She subsequently posted a 38-1 upset in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) in May at Churchill Downs before sweeping the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks and the Alabama (both gr. I), premier races for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga Race Course .
In her first start against her elders, she denied three-time Eclipse champion Royal Delta a repeat victory in the Beldame Invitational (gr. I) by wearing down her older rival to prevail by two lengths.
Owner Ed Stanco of King of Prussia Stable next supplemented Princess of Sylmar for the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I), but the homebred stumbled at the start and never rallied, finishing last of six by 16 1/4 lengths Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park. The Distaff's winner, Beholder, received the Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old filly over Princess of Sylmar.
Pletcher said he and Stanco originally targeted the Ruffian Handicap (gr. II), which was scheduled as part of the Wood Memorial day program, for Princess of Sylmar's comeback. After the Ruffian was moved to May 11 at Belmont Park, her connections opted to have her make her seasonal bow in the Cat Cay.
"We like the spacing from this race to the Ogden Phipps (gr. I June 7 at Belmont)," Pletcher said. "It's not so much the size of the purse, but rather because this is the right place to get her season started."
Princess of Sylmar's only start around one turn was her victory in the Beldame. She has competed once at one mile, taking her debut by 19 lengths in a two-turn race at Penn National Race Course as a 2-year-old.
"We were concerned last year going into a one-turn race, but the Beldame worked out pretty well," said Pletcher. "She was prominent early and was able to get herself involved in the race."
Javier Castellano, who has ridden Princess of Sylmar since the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks, retains the mount aboard the daughter of Majestic Warrior. Princess of Sylmar drew post position 3 and was installed as the even-money favorite.
Since finishing second in her debut, Wedding Toast has won four straight, all at successively higher class levels. She set the pace and held off Toasting to take the Comely (gr. III) by a head Nov. 30. Like Princess of Sylmar, Wedding Toast is a 4-year-old who trained at Palm Meadows in Florida during the winter.
"She has been training well all winter," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "We wanted to get her started sooner, but she spiked a temperature and we had to back off. We need to get her started and we want to run her on May 11 (in the Ruffian Handicap) or June 7 (in the Ogden Phipps), in either race or both."
Wedding Toast, who won going 1 1/8 miles around two turns in the Comely, also is proven around one turn.
"The main reason why we're backing up to a mile is because of the layoff," said McLaughlin. "She's ready to run, and if she runs 1-2-3 we're happy and she'll get a lot out of it."
Jose Lezcano, who rode Wedding Toast in her maiden victory, will be reunited with the Godolphin Racing homebred, who drew post 6 and was tabbed as the 6-5 morning-line second choice.
The field also includes Flash Forward, third in the March 1 Top Flight Handicap (gr. I) on March 1; Villette, a winner of three straight who was cross-entered in the Dahlia on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course; and Montana Native, who two starts back won the Remington Park Oaks.
$100,000 Cat Cay (Race 8, approximate post 4:57 p.m. EDT), fillies & mares 4YOs & Up, one mile (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. Flash Forward (KY), J. L. Ortiz, 120, D Schettino, 15-1
2. Villette (PA), K. Carmouche, 118, J C. Servis, 15-1
3. Princess of Sylmar (PA), J. Castellano, 120, T A Pletcher, Even
4. Highestmaintenance (KY), R. Maragh, 118, T A Pletcher, 30-1
5. Montana Native (KY), J Velazquez, 120, C Clement , 12-1
6. Wedding Toast (KY), J Lezcano, 120, K P. McLaughlin, 6-5