Princess of Sylmar is led into the winner's circle by owner Ed Stanco who decided to supplement the filly into the Breeders' Cup Distaff aafter her win over Royal Delta (Photos courtesy Eclipse Sportswire).
The important preps for the Breeders’ Cup wrapped up a few weeks ago, but this past weekend something happened to make a yearly spectacle even more of a blockbuster.
The news that Princess of Sylmar will be supplemented to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff added another star to the lineup for the Nov. 1 and 2 races at Santa Anita and gave the event sensational bookend races to close out each day.
As good as the Distaff would have been with the two-time champion mare Royal Delta and last year’s champion 2-year-old filly Beholder in the field, the addition of Princess of Sylmar to the mix makes the Nov. 1 Distaff a race to rival the following day’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in terms of star power and excitement.
It also demonstrated the kind of sportsmanship the sport sorely needs.
In order to enter Princess of Sylmar in the Distaff, owner Ed Stanco has to put up between $90,000 and $100,000 to cover the cost of the supplemental nominations fees and shipping his horse to the West Coast.
Stanco could have just as easily called it a season after Princess of Sylmar all but wrapped up the 3-year-old filly crown with a win over Royal Delta in the Beldame. Maybe, in another scenario, if he wanted to run “The Princess” again this year, he could have played it safe and pointed her toward a race like the $300,000 Go for Wand at Aqueduct in late November where as much as $180,000 in purse money could await him – without the financial risk that comes with racing in the Breeders’ Cup.
Instead, Stanco was willing to take a chance and gamble on his filly in what shapes up as the toughest race of her career, and he deserves a round of applause for it.
In an era in which terms like chance and gamble are often viewed as four-letter words, the Distaff promises to showcase what can happen when owners and trainers race their horses instead of dwell on preserving winning streaks. You get a higher level of anticipation that often serves as the prelude to an unforgettable race with several stars, not just one or two.
In this case, the Distaff could now have Horse of the Year implications. If Princess of Sylmar wins the Distaff and Game On Dude and Wise Dan lose the next day, Stanco’s filly could wind up as the year’s best horse.
Conversely, a loss by Princess of Sylmar and a win by Beholder could have some Eclipse Award voters wondering if Beholder deserves to be the division champ – but they shouldn’t.
If Beholder does indeed win the Distaff it would mean she and Princess of Sylmar split their two meetings, since Princess of Sylmar beat her in the Kentucky Oaks.
They would both have wins over Royal Delta.
PRINCESS OF SYLMAR BEAT 2-TIME DISTAFF CHAMPION ROYAL DELTA IN HER LAST START
But taking the Oaks and the Distaff out of the equation, Princess of Sylmar’s other wins – the Alabama, Coaching Club American Oaks, and Beldame – outweigh Beholder’s – the Zenyatta, Santa Anita Oaks and Las Virgenes – in terms of importance.
Besides that, Princess of Sylmar has something else going for her. In a highly subjective vote, Princess of Sylmar deserves a bonus point for simply running in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, a race she could have just as easily skipped. Instead, she made the race an even better show for racing fans.
That might not make sense to some, but in a sport like horse racing which lacks a regimented schedule that everyone must follow, tips of the hat are indeed in order for those who do right by the sport and do not race their horse simply to not lose by finding the easiest spots for them.
Only a few years ago, we had two of the best females of this era racing at the same time. But Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra only faced each other in a post-season vote – not on the racetrack. It was a great opportunity wasted.
That opportunity will not be squandered this year. This year’s best fillies and mares will meet in the Distaff, thanks to a splendid display of sportsmanship.
If the Breeders’ Cup is indeed the best is indeed the best racing has to offer, the addition of a “Princess” just made it even better.