Princess of Sylmar topples Royal Delta in the Grade 1 Beldame
By John Scheinman | 09/28/2013 05:03 PM ET
Princess of Sylmar
In the days leading up to the Grade 1, $400,000 Beldame Invitational, trainer Todd Pletcher said it was critical for jockey Javier Castellano not to take his 3-year-old star filly Princess of Sylmar out of her track-and-attack running style when facing older champion Royal Delta.
In the Belmont Park paddock on Saturday, in the minutes before giving Castellano a leg up for the race, Pletcher reminded his jockey of the importance of the instructions. Castellano, the leading rider in New York, responded perfectly, reserving Princess of Sylmar through the opening six furlongs, engaging Royal Delta on the turn and pulling away under a strong hand ride to win by two lengths.
The upset victory all but sewed up the 3-year-old filly championship for Princess of Sylmar, who defeated the best older female runner in the country in her first try outside of the division.
Off as the 2-1 second choice in the field of five, Princess of Sylmar ran the 1 1/8-mile Beldame in 1:47.93 seconds, getting the final eighth of a mile in a swift 12.67 seconds.
The victory touched off a raucous celebration in the winner's circle, as a massive crowd connected with Ed Stanco's King of Prussia Stable broke into cheers of "Eddie! Eddie!" as the owner made his way through the throng.
Princess of Sylmar was eligible to run last week in the Grade 1, $1 million Cotillion at Parx Racing against other 3-year-old fillies, but trainer Todd Pletcher said the Beldame carried far more prestige.
"We have a lot of respect for how good Royal Delta is," Pletcher said, "and it says a lot about Ed Stanco that we could have gone to what appeared to be an easier spot on paper, and we came here and took on the defending champ and were a deserving winner. It wasn't about the money, you know?"
Princess of Sylmar, a homebred, has now won four straight Grade 1 races - the Kentucky Oaks, the TVG Coaching Club America Oaks, the Alabama and the Beldame.
"This is a new stratosphere for us," Stanco said. "When [exercise rider] Jake Nelson was on her in Saratoga two days after we won the Alabama, I walked out with her and she was full of herself. He said she hasn't missed a beat. Todd told me Tuesday she was just perfect in her training. He felt very confident."
Going into the race, with just five runners in the field, Pletcher knew there was a chance Royal Delta, who has led gate-to-wire in her prior two victories, could get away to an easy, uncontested lead.
Royal Delta opened at odds of 1-9 and went off at 2-5 with $737,962 bet on her in the show pool.
When the gate opened, long shot Roman Invader went to the front from her inside post, with Royal Delta comfortably stalking off her right flank and Princess of Sylmar back in fourth behind Centring.
Royal Delta took the lead on the backstretch, but Roman Invader regained it through a half-mile in 46.71 seconds. On the turn, Royal Delta took command through six furlongs in 1:10.53, but Princess of Sylmar was poised to attack.
The two dueled briefly at the top of the lane, but Princess of Sylmar pulled away. Royal Delta was followed home by Centring, who was 6 ¾ lengths behind the runner-up, And Why Not and Roman Invader.
"Royal Delta was my target all the way in the race," Castellano said. "When I saw she didn't take off at the quarter pole, which usually she does, I thought, 'Whoa, I think I have a chance to win the race.'"
Princess of Sylmar paid $6.20 for a $2 win bet.
The winner's purse of $240,000 increased her lifetime earnings to $1,607,220.
Asked after the race if he would supplement Princess of Sylmar to the Breeders' Cup Distaff, Pletcher said it was too soon to decide.
"I don't think that's a question we can answer right now," he said. "We need two or three more weeks to sort that out."