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Princess of Sylmar returns a winner in Cat Cay

By Jon Forbes | 04/06/2014 06:23 PM ET
Princess of Sylmar
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese

Heavily favored Princess of Sylmar, a four-time Grade 1 stakes winner who was making her first start since finishing last of six in the Breeders' Cup Distaff in November, was victorious in her return on Sunday at Aqueduct Racetrack, making short work of her four rivals in the $100,000 Cat Cay, a one-mile race for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up.

Seeking her third stakes win at the Big A and seventh overall, Princess of Sylmar was last out of the gate before moving into fourth as the field exited the chute and connected with the main track. The 4-year-old raced 3 ½ lengths behind pacesetter and stablemate Highestmaintenance through an opening quarter-mile in 22.97 seconds and was three lengths off through a half in 45.61 seconds.

Jockey Javier Castellano began to nudge Princess of Sylmar at the five-sixteenths pole, and she made a three-wide move and split horses to swoop to the lead at the top of the stretch, drawing off to prevail by 3 ½ lengths over Grade 3 winner Wedding Toast.

"I liked the way she did it today," said Castellano. "Very professional, as always. The pace set up for her well. One thing she did well today was split horses through that narrow hole and went right by those horses very nicely. That was phenomenal. She was much the best. She was more settled and very classy in the post parade."

Trainer Todd Pletcher said Princess of Sylmar likely will make her next start in the Grade 1, $1 million Ogden Phipps on June 7, Belmont Stakes Day at Belmont Park.

"With the way she had been training she indicated she's as good as ever," said Pletcher. "We were expecting a good performance. I thought for this type of race it came up pretty tough. [Wedding Toast] is a very good filly. We feel like we had her ready to run well, but we tried not to overdo it. It's a long season, and there are bigger goals ahead.

"I think she runs well fresh," Pletcher added. "One thing with her we're always trying to be aware of is keeping her weight up. It's a long season, and, considering she runs as well as she does fresh, [there is] no need for a prep in between."

Last year, Princess of Sylmar won the Busanda and the Busher at Aqueduct to open her 3-year-old season. After finishing second in the Big A's Grade 2 Gazelle, she rattled off wins in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, Grade 1 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks, Grade 1 Alabama, and Grade 1 Beldame Invitational. She never fired in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff, finishing 16 ¼ lengths behind the winner and eventual Champion Three-Year-Old Filly Beholder.

"Today was beyond my expectations," said owner Ed Stanco, who bred the daughter of Majestic Warrior in Pennsylvania. "By giving her the time off, she got bigger, gained weight, 150 pounds, I think. Javier said she's right back in her form. This was what we were looking for. She didn't have to have a breakthrough performance today, just show us form and that you want it. My biggest concern today, for me, anyway, was the fact that when they go from 3 to 4 sometimes they might not have the interest. Today she showed it, which is great. That should set us up for some fun this summer."

Princess of Sylmar enhanced her record to 9-1-0 in 12 starts. She has earned $1,667,220 to date, including $60,000 for her Cat Cay victory.

Flash Forward, Highestmaintenance, and Montana Native completed the order of finish. Villette was scratched.