Wilmington, Del., July 6, 2014 — She was born less than 30 miles from Delaware Park. An approximate 45 minute drive, first on route 7 (Limestone Road) and then route 41 (Lancaster Pike), into Pennsylvania pass Avondale and a little further west until you get Christiana, Pennsylvania. That is where Princess of Sylmar, a winner of nearly $2 million and four grade one victories was born. On the farm she has been named after – Ron and Betsy Houghton’s Sylmar Farm.
“It is unbelievable,” said Ed Stanco, who bought a share of his first race horse in 2000. “I would have never believed we would have a filly that has a very good shot at the Delaware Handicap. Everybody we know, everybody who is connected to this horse, is going to be at Delaware Park. I am very excited about having the opportunity to run our filly in this race. She is coming back home and for us that is really exciting.”
On July 12, he will have his chance to win his own Delaware Handicap. He will have his chance to have his King of Prussia Stable silks hung in the restaurant honoring the mile and a quarter filly and mare summer classic. She will be one of the favorites in the $750,000 – one of the richest and most prestigious races in the female division.
“I have seen plenty of Delaware Handicaps,” said Ed Stanco. “I saw Unbridled Belle, Blind Luck, Fleet Indian, Island Sand, Irvings Baby, Lu Ravi, Tap to Music, I know them all. I am also very aware of the history of the race. If you go in the Delaware Handicap room, it is unbelievable – Christiana Stables, Hobeau Farms, Bohemia Stables, and Brandywine Stables. The race has a special history and it has a special place in my heart and with my family. When I go back and look at the recent winners of the Delaware Handicap – Blind Luck, Havre de Grace (2nd), Life at Ten – I just cannot believe that my partners and I own a horse at that this level who is a contender for the Delaware Handicap. That has not sunk in yet.”
Her modest beginning, starts with her dam Storm Dixie who King of Prussia Stable campaigned from 2006 through 2008. After a racing career, of a win, two seconds and a third from ten starts, it was decided to breed her to Grand Slam. But on the day before the scheduled breeding in Kentucky, Grand Slam had been kicked and the replacement stallion Masjetic Warrior had been selected. After the breeding, Storm Dixie was shipped to Sylmar Farm where she delivered her first foal. The first foal bred by Ed Stanco on March 27, 2010.
“You have got to be careful giving a name to a filly,” Stanco said. “I could not come up with a name that I thought was appropriate that matched up Storm Dixie with Majestic Warrior. I hate goofy names. As far as I am concerned, for a filly it is hard because you really have to make sure it is special. So I could not come up with a name, but I asked Ronnie and Betsy Houghton, ‘I cannot come up with a name I like, but would you mind if I named her Princess of Sylmar. They said yes but that is going to put pressure on us. So for them, it has been incredible that this filly was named after the farm where she was born. Everybody from farm is going to be at Delaware Park on Del Cap Day.”
Princess of Sylmar began her racing career at Penn National Race Course in a Pennsylvania-bred maiden going five and a half furlongs. She finished fourth. In her next outing, she posted a 19-length score in a one mile maiden at Penn. She won her next three outings, including two stakes, all at Aqueduct.
After running second in the Gazelle, Princess of Sylmar began a winning streak that rivals that of any 3-year-old filly in the history of the sport - four straight Grade I victories. On May 3, 2013, she posted a half length victory in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs at odds of 39-to-1. She followed with a 6-length triumph in the CCA Oaks and then a 2 ½-length win in the Alabama Stakes. Both of those races were at Saratoga. Finally, she defeated the top filly and mare in the country, Royal Delta, by 2-lengths in the Beldame at Belmont. She closed her 2013 season by finishing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita. This year, in her 4-year-old debut, she won the $100,000 Cat Cay at Aqueduct. In her most recent, she ran second beaten a head to Close Hatches in the $1 million Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park on June 7.
“It has been unbelievable,” said owner Ed Stanco. “It has really been a life changing experience of us. It takes you to a whole level. Every night when I come home and look at the Kentucky Oaks trophy on our mantle, I just cannot believe it. Still – a year and half later, I still cannot believe it.”
As a fan of Delaware Park racing, Stanco is well aware of two Delaware Park traditions. First, the humidity and second, it never rains during racing hours at Delaware Park on Saturday.
“I have been to plenty of Delaware Handicaps and I have experienced the infamous humidity in the area and I am a little concerned about that,” Stanco said. “I listened to Rich Glazier on the radio every Saturday and he always says ‘It never rains at Delaware Park on Saturday.’ So I decided to call him up and reminded him that it better not rain that Saturday.”
Side note #1 – If she wins the Delaware Handicap, her trainer will set the record for most wins by a trainer in the Delaware Handicap. Currently, he has four victories. He won the Delaware Handicap in Irving’s Baby (2001), Fleet Indian (2006), Unbridled Belle (2007) and Life At Ten (2010). He is tied with legendary Delaware Park trainer Henry Clark who won the race with Endine in 1958 and 1959 and Obeah in 1969 and 1970.
Side note #2 – There has been only one Pennsylvania-bred to win the Delaware Handicap. Mrs. H.D. Paxson’s home-bred filly Heavenly Ade won the race in 1980.
Side note #3 - Her jockey, Javier Castellano, will be celebrating his tenth wedding anniversary on July 12th.