Princess of Sylmar Seeks Fifth Straight Win in G2 Gazelle
By John Scheinman | 04/03/2013 07:03 PM ET
Princess of Sylmar
Save for a fourth-place finish in her debut in a sprint race against Pennsylvania-bred maidens last fall, King of Prussia Stable’s Princess of Sylmar has been untouchable. In four subsequent starts, all victories, the daughter of Majestic Warrior has crossed the finish line a minimum of 5 ¼ lengths in front of her next closest opponent and a maximum of 19 lengths.
On Saturday, trainer Todd Pletcher will find out just how good Princess of Sylmar is, and whether she is good enough to run in the Kentucky Oaks, when she squares off against five other 3-year-old fillies in the Grade 2, $250,000 Gazelle, a 1 1/8-mile race at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The Gazelle is one of five graded stakes on a sensational Aqueduct race card, along with the Grade 2, $250,000 Ruffian, the Grade 3, $250,000 Bay Shore, the Grade 1, $400,000 Carter Handicap and the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial.
Previously run in November, the Gazelle now plays a pivotal role as a test for the Kentucky Oaks and is worth 100 points to the winner in the new qualifying format.
In each of her three starts on the inner dirt this past winter at Aqueduct, Princess of Sylmar tracked the frontrunner in third and then assumed complete command in the stretch. She crushed her foes in the Busanda on January 5 and the Busher on February 2, setting her up for her first graded test.
“We’ve seen the past couple weeks it’s a very good year for 3-year-old fillies,” said Pletcher assistant Michael McCarthy. “She’s the best in her class up here in New York at the moment. She’s done everything right, everything we’ve asked her. She’s closed into soft fractions, and she’s tractable. There’s not much she can’t do. It’s nice to know we haven’t gotten to the bottom of her. It’s a big step up going from the inner dirt track to the outer, though.”
McCarthy said a win or second-place finish in the Gazelle likely would punch Princess of Sylmar’s ticket to Kentucky. “We’re going over with confidence,” he said.
Princess of Sylmar, the 9-5 morning-line second choice, will be ridden by Javier Castellano from post position 6.
The primary competition could come from Sagamore Farm’s homebred Walkwithapurpose, who has been doing to the fillies at Laurel Park what Princess of Sylmar has been doing at Aqueduct.
After dropping her debut at Timonium last summer, the daughter of Candy Ride is unbeaten in five starts, including victories in the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship, the Wide Country and the Caesar’s Wish stakes. She also has class in her pedigree, directly descending from the same female family as Schossberg, winner of the 1993 Grade 1 Jerome Handicap at Belmont Park.
While her Beyer Speed Figures have improved in all but one of her starts, the Ignacio “Nacho” Correas-trained Walkwithapurpose has never run around two turns.
“I seriously don’t think the distance will be an issue, but who knows?” Correas said. “She does everything very easy. It’s a reasonable step up to go to the Gazelle. After that, we’ll get our heads together and figure it out. We are going over because we are optimistic she can handle that. We don’t know where her ceiling is.”
Correas said that in her lone defeat, Walkwithapurpose was equipped with full-cup blinkers, and that jockey Jeremy Rose returned saying the filly was “kind of lost and waiting for company.” With a different set of blinkers, she has won her past three races by a combined 22 ¼ lengths.
“In company, in the morning, whatever you put with her, she’ll crush them,” Correas said. “She loves to be challenged. I think she’s a fighter. I’m a believer in her talent.”
Jeremy Rose has the return call aboard Walkwithapurpose, tabbed at 3-1 on the morning line.
Let Me Entertain U, owned and bred by Elizabeth Valando, finished third behind Princess of Sylmar in the Busher and rebounded to win the Beru overnight stakes on the inner track on March 3. In that victory, she defeated Kelli Got Frosty, who was second in the Busher.
“We’re optimistic she can run here,” said trainer Tom Albertrani of the daughter of Nobiz Like Shobiz, who won the Remsen and Wood Memorial for Valando at Aqueduct. “She’s still maturing. She was a little green and kind of wandering when she made the lead.”
Let Me Entertain U lost a race at Aqueduct last September at odds of 125-1 and came back to break her maiden by six lengths in her next start.
“It was a nice surprise,” Albertrani said. “She had two big losses and then boom! I can still see some improvement coming up.”
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott entered two uncoupled runners in the Gazelle, Juddmonte Farms’ Close Hatches, who is undefeated in two starts at Gulfstream Park and was made the 8-5 morning line favorite, and Watrugonnadorosie, a $700,000 daughter of champion Curlin who was a troubled third in her most recent start in an allowance race at Gulfstream.
Rounding out the field is Red Hot Tweet, a supplemental entry for trainer Graham Motion, who has been racing at Laurel Park.
The field for the Grade 2, $250,000 Gazelle: