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Princess of Sylmar Could Cement Championship Credentials in Alabama

By Jon Forbes | 08/14/2013 04:43 PM ET
Princess of Sylmar
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese

Since 1999, five fillies have swept the Kentucky Oaks and the Alabama, and four later were named Champion Three-Year-Old Filly.

On Saturday, Princess of Sylmar will attempt to join Silverbulletday (1999), Flute (2001), Farda Amiga (2002), Proud Spell (2008), and Blind Luck (2010) when she competes in the 133rd edition of Saratoga Race Course's Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama at 1 ¼ miles. All except Flute won the Eclipse Award for their division.

Princess of Sylmar, who has won six of her past seven starts, enters the Alabama off a six-length win in the Grade 1 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks on July 20 at the Spa. No horse has won the Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club, and Alabama since Hall of Famer Open Mind swept the series in 1989.

An easy winner of the Busanda and Busher over the inner track at Aqueduct during the winter, Princess of Sylmar chased home Close Hatches when second in the Grade 2 Gazelle in April on the Big A's main track.

In her next start, Princess of Sylmar made up a 10-length deficit to post a 38-1 upset in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks in May at Churchill Downs and validated that score with her easy victory in the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks, also from off the pace.

Like her five opponents in the Alabama, Princess of Sylmar will be making her first start at 1 ¼ miles.

"She should excel with the added distance," said trainer Todd Pletcher of Princess of Sylmar, a Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Majestic Warrior. "She finished both the Kentucky Oaks and the Coaching Club very well, indicating to me she wants more distance. She's easy to turn off in the early part of the race and relaxes nicely, so that should also help."

Princess of Sylmar, who races for Ed Stanco's King of Prussia Stable, drew post position 4 and was installed as the 3-5 favorite on the morning line. Javier Castellano has the call.

Pletcher also will be represented by long shot Galloping Giraffe, owned by Repole Stable. Galloping Giraffe broke her maiden by eight lengths in a $65,000 maiden claiming race in June at Belmont Park and enters the Alabama off a second in an entry-level allowance on July 31 at Saratoga.

"She's a very big filly who tends to drop way back in her races, so we feel like a mile and a quarter might suit her," said Pletcher. "Mike Repole is ambitious and doesn't mind taking a shot with some of his horses, so that's what we are doing with her."

Rajiv Maragh will ride Galloping Giraffe, 20-1 on the morning line, from post 2.

Shipping in from in California is Karl Watson, Michael Pegram, and Paul Weitman's Fiftyshadesofhay, a three-time graded stakes winner.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Fiftyshadesofhay made four starts at Santa Anita earlier this year, including a 5 ¾-length triumph in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel and a second in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes and Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks, both won by champion Beholder. She has won two straight outside her home state, rallying to take the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan in May at Pimlico and coming from just off the pace to capture the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks on June 29.

Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride Fiftyshadesofhay, the 2-1 second choice, from post 6.

The Alabama will be the stakes debut and fourth start overall for Carnival Court, who broke her maiden by 12 ¾ lengths in May before winning an optional claimer on July 7 at Belmont Park.

Owned by Darley Stable, Carnival Court is a half-sister to 2011 Alabama heroine and two-time champion Royal Delta.

"We're trying to hit the board," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who won the 2012 Alabama with Questing. "With her pedigree, if we finished third in a Grade 1 it would make her worth so much money. She's by Street Sense and is a half-sister to Royal Delta; that's why we're doing it. We think she wants that distance, and not every 3-year-old does. But she'll have to keep improving and have a good trip to be part of it."

Irad Ortiz, Jr., who piloted Questing to victory in last year's Alabama, will ride Carnival Court from post 5. The dark bay or brown filly was installed at 15-1 on the morning line.

The Alabama field also includes Montana Native, who won the restricted Broom Dance Stakes on July 24 at Saratoga, and Tell a Great Story, who won the Go for Wand in June before finishing third in the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks on July 13.

The field for the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama:








Tell a Great Story (MD)

J Lezcano


I Correas, IV



Montana Native (KY)

J Alvarado


K G. McPeek



Galloping Giraffe (KY)

R Maragh


T A. Pletcher



Princess of Sylmar (PA)

J Castellano


T A. Pletcher



Carnival Court (KY)

I Ortiz, Jr.


K P. McLaughlin



Fiftyshadesofhay (KY)

J R. Velazquez


B Baffert