King of Prussia Stable's Princess of Sylmar pulled off a 38-1 upset in the May 3 Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). The 3-year-old daughter of Majestic Warrior roared past juvenile filly champion Beholder inside the sixteenth pole for the half-length score (VIDEO) in the $1 million event.
Unlimited Budget was third, 2 1/2 lengths behind the winner, edging 3-2 favorite Dreaming of Julia by a head.
Princess of Sylmar was one of four fillies in the 10-horse Oaks trained by Todd Pletcher, along with Silsita, Unlimited Budget, and Dreaming of Julia. Pletcher has five entrants in tomorrow's May 4 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.
Mike Smith was up, winning his first Kentucky Oaks aboard the first horse ever bred by Ed Stanco, who heads the King of Prussia Stable partnership. Storm Dixie, the broodmare of the Oaks winner, was their first runner.
The pre-race and start were action packed. As the horses neared the gate for the Oaks, Beholder dumped jockey Garrett Gomez. He quickly remounted and she entered the 3 hole without further incident.
"She lost it in the post parade," Gomez said. "I knew that might jeopardize her performance a little bit. After everything that happened, she still ran a tremendous race.
"She almost fell down and rolled in the post parade and lost it going to the gate. After she got up on her feet, she left the gate and settled nicely. When I told her to 'go' turning for home she put the other filly (pacesetter Midnight Lucky) away in a heartbeat."
Dreaming of Julia, breaking from post 8, was squeezed hard at the start by Rose to Gold, who broke from post 9.
"She lost all chance," said Pletcher after the race. "She got creamed at the start and then was stopped at the three-eighths pole. I thought she showed a lot of courage."
"That did it all, right from the start," said Dreaming of Julia's rider John Velazquez. "She got pinched out of there and the race was over. I saved all the ground I could and she made a nice run but it was too much ground to make up."
Princess of Sylmar was also roughed up at the start and settled off the rail while racing in ninth for the opening half mile.
Midnight Lucky grabbed the early lead from post 2 and was tracked by Beholder (post 3) as the field went by the stands the first time. The early pace was swift, :22.84 and :46.79, as Midnight Lucky and Beholder led the way down the backstretch. They were tracked by Silsita along the rail and Unlimited Budget.
The field tightened some as they headed to the far turn after six furlongs in 1:11.34. Beholder and Gomez collared Midnight Lucky for the lead and quickly opened up by two lengths in the stretch. Dreaming of Julia came with a wide move, and Unlimited Budget got into the mix as well. But Princess of Sylmar, who advanced into fourth at the three-eighths pole, was moving best of all while motoring down the center of the track.
Of the winner Pletcher said: "We're pleasantly surprised with her effort and her win. We didn't much like her first breeze here (:48 3/5 April 20), but her second one (:49 1/5 April 27) was much better. She's a good filly; we knew that all along.'
"I had a perfect trip," said Javier Castellano, who was aboard Unlimited Budget. "Turning for home I thought I had a chance to win. I asked her and she responded, but she just didn't have enough."
The final time was 1:49.17, quick, but not as fast as Bird Town's stakes mark of 1:48.64 set in 2003.
Princess of Sylmar had two stakes wins and one graded stakes placing to her credit, which nevertheless made her a 38-1 shot in a field considered the best for the Oaks in many years.
The lineup included last year's champion juvenile filly Beholder, who was sent off at 9-1 odds; Unlimited Budget, unbeaten in four starts and winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II); Dreaming of Julia, winner of the March 30 Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II) by 21 3/4 lengths; Midnight Lucky, unbeaten in two starts including the Sunland Park Oaks by eight lengths; and the 3-for-3 Close Hatches, who defeated Princess of Sylmar in winning the Gazelle Stakes (gr. II) last time out.
"I've always wanted to take our time with her, keep her her happy, and keep her calm," said Stanco. "After (the Gazelle) we gave her a little time and worked her out. And she did just great; she's just come along."
Stanco, who has had horses in training with Pletcher off and on over the last 10 years, praised the trainer's well-planned approach for choosing Princess of Sylmar's races.
"To me, there's no better trainer in the world that can (win a race like the Oaks) with this kind of filly," he said.
Princess of Sylmar, bred in Pennsylvania by Stanco out of the Catienus mare Storm Dixie, paid $79.60, $29.40, and $14. Beholder returned $9 and $5.60. Unlimited Budget paid $3.80 to show. The exacta was worth $727, while the trifecta came back $3,470.80.
The only filly to pay a higher price in the Oaks was the 47-1 Lemons Forever in 2005.
The winner made her first two starts at Penn Nationa Race Course, breaking her maiden second time out by 19 lengths going a mile. Moved on to Aqueduct Racetrack, she dusted a short allowance/optional claiming field to end her 2-year-old campaign Dec. 13. At 3 she won the Jan. 5 Busanda Stakes by 7 1/2 lengths at a mile and 70 yards and added the Busher Stakes Feb. 2 at 1 1/16 miles. In her graded stakes debut she was second, beaten 3 1/4 lengths by Close Hatches in the Gazelle.
She now sports a 5-1-0 mark from eight starts and her $589,000 payday boosts her earnings to $827,220.
Dreaming of Julia was followed in the Oaks by Midnight Lucky, Pure Fun, Close Hatches, Rose to Gold, Seaneen Girl, and Silsita.
The Oaks attendance was 113,820, second largest in Oaks history topped only by the 116,046 on hand in 2010.