Princess of Sylmar returns to Aqueduct, makes 4-year-old debut in Cat Cay
By Jon Forbes | 04/03/2014 05:47 PM ET
Princess of Sylmar
Princess of Sylmar, who won a pair of stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack before going on to win four Grade 1 races during her 2013 season, will return to the Big A on Sunday to make her 4-year-old debut in the $100,000 Cat Cay.
The Cat Cay, a one-mile race around one turn on the main track for fillies and mares, also attracted Grade 3 winner Wedding Toast, who also will be returning from a layoff and making her first start as a 4-year-old on Sunday.
Princess of Sylmar romped in both the Busanda and Busher, contested over Aqueduct's inner track, in early 2013 before finishing second in the Grade 2 Gazelle on the main track in April. She subsequently posted a 38-1 upset in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks in May at Churchill Downs before sweeping the Grade 1 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks and the Grade 1 Alabama, Saratoga Race Course's premier races for 3-year-old fillies. In her first start against her elders, she denied three-time Eclipse champion Royal Delta a repeat victory in the Grade 1 Beldame Invitational by wearing down her older rival to prevail by two lengths.
Owner Ed Stanco of King of Prussia Stable next supplemented Princess of Sylmar for the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff, but the homebred stumbled at the start and never rallied, finishing last of six by 16 ¼ lengths on November 1 at Santa Anita. The Distaff's winner, Beholder, received the Eclipse Award for Champion Three-Year Filly over Princess of Sylmar.
Pletcher said he and Stanco originally targeted the Grade 2 Ruffian Handicap, which was originally scheduled for TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial Day. After the Ruffian was moved to May 11 at Belmont Park, her connections opted to have her make her seasonal bow in the Cat Cay.
"After they switched the Ruffian to May, she was far enough in her training that we decided to target the Cat Cay," said Pletcher. "We like the spacing from this race to the [Grade 1] Ogden Phipps [Handicap on June 7 at Belmont]. It's not so much the size of the purse, but rather because this is the right place to get her season started."
Princess of Sylmar's only start around one turn was her victory in the Beldame. She has competed once at one mile, taking her debut by 19 lengths in a two-turn race at Penn National as a 2-year-old.
"We were concerned last year going into a one-turn race, but the Beldame worked out pretty well," said Pletcher. "She was prominent early and was able to get herself involved in the race."
Javier Castellano, who has ridden Princess of Sylmar since the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks, retains the mount aboard the daughter of Majestic Warrior. Princess of Sylmar drew post position 3 and was installed as the even-money favorite.
Princess of Sylmar will be joined in the starting gate by stablemate Highestmaintenance, fourth in a six-furlong entry-level allowance on March 23 on the inner track.
"She's stakes placed (second in the 2013 Cicada), and we think the one-turn mile might suit her well," said Pletcher. "This is a good chance for her to get more black type."
Rajiv Maragh will ride Highestmaintenance, 30-1, from post 4.
Since finishing second in her debut, Wedding Toast has won four straight, all at successively higher class levels. She broke her maiden by 2 ½ lengths in July at Saratoga, cleared the first allowance condition by 14 ½ lengths in September at Belmont, took Belmont's Belle Cherie overnight stakes by 3 ½ lengths in October, and set the pace and held off Toasting to take the Grade 3 Comely by a head on November 30. Like Princess of Sylmar, Wedding Toast is a 4-year-old who trained at Palm Meadows in Florida during the winter.
"She has been training well all winter," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "We wanted to get her started sooner, but she spiked a temperature and we had to back off. We need to get her started and we want to run her on May 11 [in the Ruffian Handicap] or June 7 [in the Ogden Phipps], in either race or both."
Wedding Toast, who won going 1 1/8 miles around two turns in the Comely, also is proven around one turn, with her optional claiming victory coming at one mile and her Belle Cherie triumph coming at 1 1/16 miles at Belmont.
"The main reason why we're backing up to a mile is because of the layoff," said McLaughlin. "She's ready to run, and if she runs 1-2-3 we're happy and she'll get a lot out of it."
Jose Lezcano, who rode Wedding Toast in her maiden victory, will be reunited with the Godolphin Racing homebred, who drew post 6 and was tabbed as the 6-5 morning-line second choice.
The field also includes Flash Forward, third in the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap on March 1; Villette, a winner of three straight who was cross-entered in the Dahlia on Saturday at Pimlico; and Montana Native, who two starts back won the Remington Park Oaks.
The field for the $100,000 Cat Cay: