The 3yo filly’s lone loss since last November came in a distant second-place finish behind Close Hatches in the Gazelle at Belmont last April.
Princess of Sylmar has impressed her trainer with her consistent excellence in every start.
“It’s one of those things. She’s just a talented, gifted filly. She’s got an exceptional turn of foot on the dirt. She has the ability to turn off at the beginning of the race and relax and deliver a good kick,” Pletcher said. “What makes her good is all of those things.”
The Pletcher-trained Authenticity also galloped Thursday morning for her scheduled start in the Distaff.
The 6yo mare hasn’t finished worse than second in six consecutive Graded-stakes appearances, including runner-up showings behind two-time defending Distaff champion Royal Delta and Beholder. Yet, the daughter of Quiet American has trained somewhat under the radar at Santa Anita.
“In this field, if you’re not Royal Delta, Princess of Sylmar or Beholder, you could get overlooked,” Pletcher said. “There’s a couple of exceptional fillies in their like Close Hatches and Authenticity that if they’re able to run big races, it wouldn’t be shocking.”
Pletcher said that trainer Bill Mott’s double representation by Royal Delta and Close Hatches adds intrigue to the Distaff.
“To me it’s very much a jockey’s race. I think it’s going to be interesting how Royal Delta’s going to be ridden and how Beholder is ridden, and how Close Hatches is ridden. I know it can be a little bit tricky when you’re in that spot as a trainer when you get two fillies with similar running styles – how they are going to ride Close Hatches vs. Royal Delta. There’s probably going to be some cat and mouse going on.
“I think there are five of the six that wouldn’t be a surprise, based on their resumes. Then, there’s always that longshot sixth one (Street Girl).”
Beholder – The Henny Hughes filly Beholder galloped 1 1/4m Thursday morning at 7 under exercise rider David Nuesch as trainer Richard Mandella and owner B. Wayne Hughes of Spendthrift Farm looked on from the Santa Anita apron.
The 3yo filly – last year’s 2yo filly champion – is part of a cast of six fillies and mares for Friday’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff at 1 1/8m.
Mandella gave Beholder a four-month break in the middle of the year, then brought her back to racing in September to ready her for the Breeders’ Cup. When he did, he united her with a new rider, the comebacking veteran Gary Stevens.
“We won’t do a lot of talking in the paddock before the race,” Mandella said in reference to his rider. “We’ve talked plenty about her already. Gary will give her her head away from there, find a good spot for her and then go on from there. If she makes the lead, that’s good. If she’s away a bit slow and doesn’t, that’s good, too. She can handle it and so can he.”
Royal Delta/Close Hatches – Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott’s tandem of Close Hatches and two-time defending champion Royal Delta galloped on the main track Thursday morning at sun-splashed Santa Anita Park.
With Royal Delta as the headliner, the Distaff is again one of the most eagerly anticipated races on the Breeders’ Cup weekend program. Royal Delta, who led from start to finish last year, suffered a rare loss in her most recent start, finishing two lengths behind Princess of Sylmar in the Beldame at Belmont Park. The Distaff will feature a rematch between Royal Delta and Princess of Sylmar and includes accomplished 3yos Beholder and Close Hatches.
“At this time last year it was advertised as one of the most competitive races and one of the best races and it looks like it could be again this year,” Mott said. “There are three top 3-year-old fillies in there and she (Royal Delta) is a two-time defending Breeders’ Cup champ. She seems to be doing well, she’s had a good season and hopefully we can top it off here. We’re hoping for another big race.”
Mott noted that Royal Delta has a habit of bouncing back from her losses. He said that he deliberately lightened up on Royal Delta’s training prior to the Beldame, which may have contributed to the loss.
“She got beat on the day, but she’s always been one who can come back and run a big race after she’s had a defeat. We’ve been beaten on several different occasions, but it’s not unusual to see her come back and see her run a huge race after finishing second.”
Since the Beldame loss, Mott has allowed Royal Delta to return to her spirited workouts. She has turned in three straight bullet works, the fastest of the day at the distance, and the veteran trainer says she is in top form.
“Is she the one to beat? Absolutely,” he said. “I’m not saying she can’t be beat, but she is the one to beat. From our eyes, we could look at the others who are ones to beat, like Beholder. You could look at two or three of them in there. Then you’ve got Close Hatches flying under the radar. Nobody cares about her.”
Royal Delta is bidding to match Goldikova’s Breeders’ Cup record of three consecutive victories.
“She looked great on the track this morning and it seems like she is doing well,” Mott said. “It would be a pretty feather in everybody’s cap to join Goldikova as one of the two horses to win the same Breeders’ Cup race three times.”
Street Girl – Rontos Racing Stable’s Street Girl galloped 1 1/2m with exercise rider Edmundo Cedeno up for trainer Manny Azpurua.
“She just went very easy this morning,” said Ronald Sanchez, head of Rontos Racing.
Sanchez has an idea of how he would like to see Friday’s Distaff unfold for Street Girl.
“I’d like to see her sit back behind the speed, maybe 10 lengths back,” Sanchez said. “At the half-mile pole she should start moving and kick it in at the three-eighths pole.”
Street Girl will be ridden by Angel Castillo, who was aboard the 3yo filly in her most recent start in the Cotillion (third).
“She had a problem at the gate and got so far back,” said Castillo, who will be riding in his first Breeders’ Cup. “If she has no problem Friday, she will not be that far back. She is a good filly, but this race, it is not easy.”
Castillo, who also will ride Indian Jones in the Marathon, has ridden once before at Santa Anita.
“I came out to ride a stake last year,” Castillo said, adding with a laugh, “I do good; the horse not so good.”
So, on Friday, who will perform better?
“Both of us,” Castillo said.