Down The Stretch: Princess shows her superiority in handling field
SARATOGA SPRINGS So much for using the Coaching Club as strictly an Alabama prep for Princess of Sylmar.
Away from the races since her upset win in the May 3 Kentucky Oaks, and facing the prospect of a less than ideal pace scenario in the short field, Princess of Sylmar showed her superiority Saturday with a six-length score in the Coaching Club American Oaks.
Owned by Schenectady native and Linton High graduate Ed Stanco, Princess of Sylmar broke perfectly, but was eased back to last by Javier Castellano. Despite trailing the field, she was always within five lengths of leader My Happy Face through steady fractions. Castellano made his move around the far turn, quickly collaring the leaders while four-wide approaching the quarter-pole. Castellano kept Princess of Sylmar focused through the lane, while drawing away to the authoritative win.
This race should set her up perfectly for the Alabama, and as the current leader of the 3-year-old filly division, a win in the Alabama would go a long way to making her a champion.
The crowd cheered Princess of Sylmar in the paddock before the race, and chanted her owners name — “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie” — after the race.
Not bad for a filly who got beat in her debut at Penn National.
Todd Pletcher trains the winner, and he swept the trio of stakes on Saturday's card.
The secondary feature was the Grade III Shuvee and the winner, Authenticity, appears ready to try tougher company.
Scratched from the Delaware Handicap for this much easier spot, Authenticity stalked a very slow pace (six furlongs in 1:15) before going on to a workmanlike one-length victory over Flashy American.
It wasn't exactly a 'wow' performance, and while I'm not certain that nine furlongs is her best distance, she has talent. She'll face tougher next time out here in the Aug. 25 Personal Ensign.
TOUGH DAY FOR EBLOUISSANTE
Eblouissante, Zenyatta's half-sister who was making her first start since Jan. 17, had everything go wrong while finishing last.
Despite arriving at the gate — as planned — at the last moment, and in spite of her trainer, John Shirreffs conferring with starter Roy Williamson, Eblouissant reared badly in the starting gate, unseating substitute rider Rosie Napravnik. It was all too much for the inexperienced filly, who was making her stakes debut in just her third career race.
It had to be upsetting for Shirreffs, who is the consumate, conservative horseman.
ROSARIO GETS FIRST WIN
One of the biggest upsets at the meet, thus far, is that it took jockey Joel Rosario a dozen mounts to win his first race here. After going 0-for-8 on opening day, Rosario
finally found the winner's circle with Tycoon Cat in Saturday's fifth race. Since his premature move aboard Animal Kingdom five months ago in the Gulfstream Turf Handicap, Rosario hasn't made many mistakes. His victories aboard Orb in the Kentucky Derby and Animal Kingdom in the Dubai World Cup — among many others — have made him the overwhelming favorite to win his first Eclipse Award.
SO MUCH FOR STRATEGY
A pair of interesting trainer/jockey discussions in the paddock prior to Saturday's third race.
Wayne Lukas, the trainer of Broken Spell, was telling jockey Robbie Albarado to get the filly to settle and make a run in the 81⁄2-furlong overnight turf stakes. As soon as the gates opened, Broken Spell went to the lead from her outside post.
She wound up getting beaten a nose at 12-1 as Silsita barely outgamed her. In Albarado's defense, there was no pace in the race. The opening six furlongs went in 1:14, so Albarado made the right decision.
Chad Brown, the trainer of
favored Wave Theory, told his rider, Rosario, that his filly didn't like racing on the inside. After racing in the two or three path for much of the trip, Wave Theory came off the final turn in about the five or six path. She finished fourth. It's tough for a turf runner to have to race outside.
NEED FOR SPEED
Speaking of turf, you needed to possess some early speed to win on the grass here Saturday. Palace Dreams and Moonlit Sonnet sat 1-2 all the way around in the opener. Asset Inflation sat just off eventual second- and third-place finishers Poppy's Watching and Gentle Jim in winning the second. Silsita came from a stalking third to edge
pacesetter Broken Spell in the third. Therapy sat second behind long shot leader Courageous Karen before edging past that one late to win the fourth. And Tycoon Cat took over early on the backstretch in route to winning handily in the fifth. I'd say speed and tactical speed was quite important on Saturday, and jockey Jose Ortiz apparently knew it. He had two winners and a second in the five turf races.
No SHANGHAI BOBBY
Shanghai Bobby, last year's champion two-year-old male and winner of the Hopeful here, will not race this year at Saratoga. According to Jack Wolf, co-managing partner of Starlight Racing, Shanghai Bobby is too far behind in his training to make a race at Saratoga as he returns from an injury-induced layoff. He will likely start sometime this fall at Belmont Park, but the delay could cost him a return trip to the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita.
The Nov. 30 Cigar Mile appears the main target at this time. Due to it's Grade I status, a victory would enhance Shanghai Bobby's value at stud. With Coolmore being an equal partner in the colt, a win in the Cigar Mile could mark the end of his racing career. Wolf did say that Coolmore has been completely non-intrusive in determining his racing schedule, but, when it comes to breeding, will likely have much more input. Fascinating. If Shanghai Bobby fails to return in top form — or at least doesn't win a Grade I at three — there's probably a better chance of him running next year as a 4-year-old.
Normandy Invasion, who will miss the Travers due to a foot issue, is scheduled to return to the track next Tuesday or Wednesday, according to his trainer, Chad Brown. Away from the races since a fine fourth in the Kentucky Derby, Brown said the Sept. 21 Pennsylvania Derby is a realistic spot for a return.
I had the opportunity to interview NYRA's new President and CEO, Christopher Kay, Saturday morning on Capital OTB TV's, Down The Stretch. One of the many interesting things he had to say involved preparing NYRA for reprivatization come Oct. 2015. When I asked him if that meant the franchise would go out to bid, Kay responded, "Unlikely, but possible."
That's pretty interesting, considering that in 2008 NYRA deeded to the state of New York the land which Saratoga Race Course, Belmont Park and Aqueduct sit on. That was in exchange for a 25-year franchise renewal.