After her stunning two-length victory over two-time defending Distaff winner Royal Delta in the Beldame Invitational, ‘Win and You’re In’ race at Belmont Park on Sept. 28, owner Ed Stanco paid a $100,000 horse of racing age fee to place Princess of Sylmar into the Breeders’ Cup program.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Royal Delta and how good she is,” said Pletcher, noting he had some concerns about Princess of Sylmar facing older fillies and mares for the first time and turning back to a one-turn race heading into the Beldame. “I wasn’t shocked, but it was impressive to watch.”
It was the third time a Pletcher-trained horse upset Royal Delta, who also was defeated by Love and Pride in the 2012 Personal Ensign and Awesome Maria in the 2012 Sabin. Pletcher was asked if he had Royal Delta’s number.
“No, because we haven’t beat her in the Distaff yet,” said Pletcher, whose trainee is rated second in the morning line at 9-5 behind Royal Delta, the 8-5 favorite. “(Royal Delta) is a very, very good mare, and I’m sure she’ll run her ‘A’ race on Friday.”
The Pletcher-trained Authenticity galloped at Santa Anita, where she finished second behind Distaff contender Beholder in the Zenyatta Stakes on Sept. 28.
“She’s been very consistent for us all year. She’s run some big races. I thought her race in the Zenyatta was better than it looked considering she didn’t get away well and Beholder got a pretty comfortable pace,” Pletcher said. “She’s come back with three very good breezes since then. I wouldn’t be shocked.”
Beholder – Last year’s 2yo filly champion merely walked trainer Richard Mandella’s shedrow Tuesday morning after turning in her 4f work Monday at Santa Anita.
“She came out of it fine and she’ll go back to the track to gallop Wednesday,” the Hall of Fame conditioner said.
Beholder, who has added to her credentials this season with four wins and a pair of seconds against stakes horses, will break from post 5 in the six-horse Distaff field and will have Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens aboard in Friday’s headline event.
Royal Delta/Close Hatches – Besilu Stables’ champion 5yo mare Royal Delta jogged once around the main track Tuesday in preparation for her bid to the win the Breeders’ Cup’s marquee dirt race for older fillies and mares for the third consecutive year. The name of the race for fillies and mares has been returned to the original, Distaff, for 2013 after five years as the Ladies’ Classic.
Since she was beaten two lengths by Princess of Sylmar in the Beldame on Sept. 28, Royal Delta has reeled off three straight bullet workouts at Belmont Park for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. The return to fast works is part of the plan to get her ready for the Distaff.
“We let her do that,” Mott said. “Before the Beldame we slowed her down and I thought I would have enough in her to get the job done anyway, and it wasn’t. It seems like when she works a little faster and you let her train a little bit she runs pretty well. I’m hoping that’s what the result is this go-round.”
Royal Delta has three victories and has finished second twice in six starts this year. She has won 12 of 21 career starts and earned more than $4.6 million. With the Distaff as the season-ending goal for the daughter of Empire Maker, Mott elected a conservative approach in September.
“Her works leading into the Beldame were a little slower. Instead of 46 it was 48,” he said. “She was still breezing and going well. She jogged a couple of weeks after the Personal Ensign and we tried to get a little weight back on her, looking forward to this race hoping that we had enough gas left in the tank for this one.”
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will be aboard Royal Delta for the 12th consecutive race. They will start from post four in the six-horse field.
Juddmonte Farms’ 3yo filly Close Hatches jogged once around the dirt oval Tuesday morning during her first visit to the main track at Santa Anita. The daughter of First Defence shipped from New York Monday with three others trained by Mott.
On April 6, Close Hatches extended her unbeaten record to three races with a 3 1/4-length victory over Princess of Sylmar, who went on to win the Kentucky Oaks and is a top contender in the Distaff.
It was Princess of Sylmar’s only loss in seven starts this year. Mott said that when Close Hatches won the Gazelle at Aqueduct, he had no idea that Princess of Sylmar would emerge as a leader of the 3yo filly division. However, he did think that Close Hatches was a good one and she enters the Distaff after victories in the Mother Goose and the Cotillion.
“It’s not surprising that our filly has come on and done what she’s done,” he said. “She’s won a couple of Grade I’s on her own and she’s run very well. I’m very happy with her, a filly who never got her first race until January. We were planning to run her in November of her 2-year-old year and we missed out on that. She got a little fever.”
Joel Rosario will ride Close Hatches, who is 6-1 on the morning line and will break from post three in the field of six.
Street Girl – Rontos Racing Stable’s Street Girl galloped 1 1/2m under exercise rider Edmundo Cedeno at Santa Anita.
Trained by 84-year-old Manny Azpurua, Street Girl will break from post position one as a 30-1 morning line proposition under jockey Angel Castillo. She is the only entrant in the six-horse Distaff to have raced for a claiming tag.
“I had seen her train,” said Ronald Sanchez, who claimed Street Girl out of her first start ($50,000 at Gulfstream Park) and owns Rontos. “She had good strength and everything I like in a filly. She had a great attitude, very calm, very smart. She is a very special filly.”
Street Girl ran second in her debut to Wildcat Lily, who is owned by Rontos and trained by Azpurua.
“We wound up 1-2 in the same race,” said Sanchez, who calls the two fillies the best he has had. “Wildcat Lily just got beat by a head in the Test, but she got sick or she would have been here, too.”
Sanchez, whose stable is comprised of 65 horses, is not concerned that Street Girl is considered a major outsider in the star-studded Distaff field.
“Horses can’t read the tote board,” Sanchez said. “Besides, I trust this guy (Azpurua). We have a chance everywhere we go.”