“She’s had an unbelievable campaign. She’s run all year. She won the (Kentucky) Oaks against some of the fillies in this race. Then, to cap it off with the wins in the Coaching Club, the Alabama and the Beldame, to me, regardless of what happens, I think the voters will reward her for the consistency of her campaign and the fact that she did it all year,” Pletcher said.
“She didn’t take any breaks. She ran in all the big dances and took on older mares when she had easier options for more money. (Owner) Ed (Stanco) has chosen the sporting route, just as we did going in the Beldame instead of the Cotillion. To me it doesn’t make sense to sit out a race as prestigious as the Distaff just to try to protect yourself as champion 3-year-old filly.”
Princess of Sylmar’s stunning two-length win over two-time defending Distaff champion Royal Delta in the Beldame at Belmont on Sept. 28 had been expected to be the last race of her 2013 campaign. However, Stanco decided to go ahead and pay the $100,000 horse of racing age fee to place his filly in the Breeders’ Cup program.
“He always had some reservations about bringing her to California as a 3-year-old and running against older fillies and mares. He wants to have her as a 4-year-old. So there was never anything the filly did to give us any reason not to want to continue looking at it (Distaff). It was just that Ed had some reservations about a couple of things,” Pletcher said. “When she beat Royal Delta in the Beldame, that certainly gave him some confidence that running against older mares was OK.”
Princess of Sylmar began her career in relative obscurity while winning ungraded stakes at Aqueduct before scoring a 38-1 upset victory in the Kentucky Oaks that began her rise to stardom.
“In the Oaks we felt like she was better than the public thought she was. Her races at Aqueduct we thought were very impressive. We just didn’t know the kind of competition she was running against there. We weren’t shocked by the Oaks result,” Pletcher said. “The Oaks, at the time, was being touted as the most exciting Kentucky Oaks we’ve seen in a while, and I think it’s turned out to be that, now that you look back.”
Beholder – Trainer Richard Mandella had his champion filly Beholder on the racetrack at 7:15 Wednesday morning for a gallop of about 1 1/4m and then took a tour of the paddock.
Mandella ran the daughter of Henny Hughes in the Kentucky Oaks May 3 (she finished second), then put her away for four months before bringing her back at Del Mar. It was by plan.
“Oh, yeah, I shut her down with the idea of having her ready for this (Breeders’ Cup),” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “I did the same thing with (eventual Horse of the Year) Kotashaan (in 1993). Brought him back at Del Mar and won the Eddie Read (Handicap). Went on from there (to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf and Eclipse honors).”
Mandella brought Beholder back to win the Torrey Pines Stakes at 1m at Del Mar, then in the Zenyatta Stakes at 1 1/16m at Santa Anita last month. The trainer thinks he has her ready and the bay 3yo has been acting like a horse sitting on ready during Breeders’ Cup week.
Will there be more racing for Beholder after the Breeders’ Cup?
“Don’t know,” Mandella said. “That’s going to be up to the boss (B. Wayne Hughes of Spendthrift Farm). I’ll tell you though, I wouldn’t mind. You might break a thousand yearlings and not come up with one like her. We might be able to try some different things with her, too. I might want to try her on the grass. I think she’d like it. You have lots of options with a horse like her.”
Royal Delta/Close Hatches – Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott will try to extend his record of Distaff victories to six and his winning streak to four years Friday with two-time defending champion Royal Delta and Close Hatches.
Now 5, Royal Delta, a two-time champion, picked up her first Breeders’ Cup win at Churchill Downs in 2011. She repeated last year at Santa Anita. Mott’s previous winners were Ajina (1997), Escena (1998) and Unrivaled Belle (2010).
Juddmonte Farm’s Close Hatches did not debut until January and has won five of seven starts, including three Graded stakes, to earn a berth in the Distaff alongside her distinguished stablemate.
“She deserved to run here,” Mott said. “I don’t particularly like running against myself. I don’t see why anybody would want to do that, but there are certain instances, I think, if you’re in the Kentucky Oaks or the Kentucky Derby or the Breeders’ Cup. If those situations arise, you just have to do it.
“I don’t think I’m running a horse that doesn’t deserve to run. Both fillies deserve to run and have their chance at it. Whatever happens, happens on the day. Both have earned their way in here. It’s a championship day and – you know what? – at the end of the day will the best horse win? Well, the winner is going to be who the winner is. Hopefully they’ll get a clean trip and a fair chance.”
Mott also has a pair of runners in the Classic: Flat Out and Ron the Greek.
Close Hatches and Royal Delta galloped on the main track Wednesday morning and visited the paddock and the starting gate.
Street Girl – Rontos Racing Stable’s Street Girl galloped 1 1/2m under exercise rider Edmundo Cedeno Wednesday morning.
“The exercise rider said she was a lot better out there this morning than Tuesday,” said Ronald Sanchez, owner of Rontos Racing. “Tuesday she did a lot of looking around.”
Jockey Angel Castillo, who rode Street Girl for the first time in the Cotillion in her most recent start was supposed to be aboard Wednesday morning.
“He got stuck in traffic and was running late and we had to go,” Sanchez said. “He will gallop her tomorrow.”
Street Girl also had been pre-entered in the Filly & Mare Sprint, but Sanchez opted for the Distaff that features fillies and mares who have combined for 15 Grade 1 wins.
“This filly is getting better and better every day,” Sanchez said of the 3yo. “When we claimed her in her first race, we thought that she could improve into a stakes filly.
“Why the Distaff instead of the Sprint? It is a short field of six horses and everybody else in there is speed. We will be able to sit back and make one run. Her last two races have been very good and in the Cotillion she had a bad start, made her run and only got beat two lengths.
“She can beat them. That’s how good she is.”