Friday’s attendance was surpassed only by the 116,046 that attended in 2010.
Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Mike Smith, Princess of Sylmar covered the 1 1/8 miles on a fast main track in 1:49.17. It was the first Oaks victory for Smith and the third for Pletcher, who won the 2004 running with Ashado and in 2007 with Rags to Riches.
Pletcher, who will saddle five runners in Saturday’s 139th Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, is in position to become the first trainer since Ben Jones in 1952 to win the Oaks and Derby in the same year. Jones won the Oaks with Real Delight and the Derby with Hill Gail.
Smith, who will ride Palace Malice for Pletcher in the Derby, seeks to become the first rider since Calvin Borel in 2009 (Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird) to complete a Derby-Oaks double in the same year.
Princess of Sylmar’s $79.60 winning mutual is the second highest in Oaks history, topped only by the $96.20 payoff for Lemons Forever in 2006.
The victory was worth $589,000 and improved Princess of Sylmar’s earnings to $827,220 with a record of 7-5-1-0. It was the first graded-stakes victory for Princess of Sylmar. Princess of Sylmar is a homebred daughter of Majestic Warrior out the Catienus mare Storm Dixie. The undefeated Midnight Lucky, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, set the early pace with 2012 champion 2-year-old filly Beholder with Garrett Gomez up in closest pursuit through fractions of :22.84, :46.79 and 1:11.34. As the field turned for home, Smith had Princess of Sylmar in the clear and fourth behind the trio of Midnight Lucky, Beholder and Unlimited Budget. Beholder put away Midnight Lucky and opened a clear advantage only to be collared late by Princess of Sylmar. Princess of Sylmar returned $79.60, $29.40 and $14. Beholder returned $9 and $5.60 with Unlimited Budget, ridden by Javier Castellano, finishing two lengths back and returning $3.80 to show. Favored Dreaming of Julia finished a head back in fourth and was followed in order by Midnight Lucky, Pure Fun, Close Hatches, Rose to Gold, Seaneen Girl and Silsita. Flashy Gray was scratched.
Mike Smith, rider on Princess of Sylmar, winner: “It was extremely rough leaving there. We got banged around pretty good but she settled right into stride. After that, I just rode her like Todd had told me to, to be honest with you. They thought they had moved a little early last time out and to really be patient. And when you think it’s time to move, maybe even be a little more patient. It really worked out great.”
Todd Pletcher, trainer of Princess of Sylmar, winner: “We’re pleasantly surprised with her effort and her win. We didn’t much like her first breeze here (:48.60 April 20), but her second one (:49.20 April 27) was much better done. She’s a good filly; we knew that all along. And we took her out of her natural running style last time. This time she made that good run and got it done.”
Richard Mandella, trainer of Beholder, second – “She ran great and I’m proud of her. But she might have lost this race in the post parade. She was so full of herself and so wanting to go, that she was a handful in the parade and she gave the pony a heck of a time. Oh, well. At home, we can get her to settle down, but here – with all the people – it was a different story. But she ran well and we’re proud.”
Todd Pletcher, trainer of Unlimited Budget, third – “It was a really good race for her. She was in a good spot and looked like she might be able to be right there at the finish. But today just wasn’t her day.”
Pletcher, trainer of Dreaming of Julia, fourth – “She lost it out of the gate. She got creamed coming out of there and it is hard to overcome that sort of thing. She tried hard to make it up and I thought she ran very courageously. But it was too much to ask.”
Bob Baffert, trainer of Midnight Lucky, fifth – “We set a fast pace and she is lightly raced. It looked like she was going easy but when they posted the fractions I thought, ‘Oh, we’re going pretty fast.’ And she got pretty tired. We had an inside post, so we had to go with her.”
Ken McPeek, trainer of Pure Fun, sixth – “I wasn’t all that worried about where she was sitting. It didn’t look like the racetrack much backed up to us here. She’ll live to fight another day. It was a tough field.”
Bill Mott, trainer of Close Hatches, seventh – “She would up being back a little further than I thought she would. You never know what’s going to happen when you’re in that post position but, ideally, I would’ve liked to have seen her closer. He (Joel Rosario) thought as fast as they were going he’d be OK where he was at but, I’m not sure, I think maybe the filly got a little discouraged.”
Sal Santoro, trainer of Rose to Gold, eighth – Unavailable for comment.
Bernie Flint, trainer, Seaneen Girl, ninth – “That was a very, very tough race. A 36-1 horse won it. The thing I can say, the horse has run consistently all her life. …. I don’t know what happened.’’
Pletcher, trainer of Silsita, 10th – “She ran well for the first part of it, but then she just flattened out.”
Garrett Gomez, jockey of Beholder, second – “She lost it in the post parade. I knew that might jeopardize her performance a little bit. After everything that happened, she still ran a tremendous race. Better than to be expected after the antics she pulled in the post parade. She almost fell down and rolled in the post parade and lost it going to the gate. After she got up on her feet leaving the gate and settled nicely, I told to go turning for home she put the other filly away in a heartbeat. If she didn’t pull those antics in the post parade, she might have had a chance to win.”
Javier Castellano, jockey of Unlimited Budget, third – “I had a perfect trip. Turning for home, I thought I had chance to win the race. I asked the horse, and she responded, but she just didn’t have enough.”
John Velazquez, jockey of Dreaming of Julia, fourth – “That did it all, right from the start. She got pinched out of there and the race was over. She still ran a great race. I saved all the ground I could and try to give myself a chance to win the race. She made a nice run but it was too much ground to make up. The first jump she didn’t break very good and the horse next to me bounced her and then she sucked out of there. And that was it. You’re done.” Rafael Bejarano, jockey of Midnight Lucky, fifth – “I had a good trip. My horse broke right on the top, really good. I tried to settle the pace, but I had a little pressure. I was really comfortable in the beginning with my horse. By the half-mile pole, she was getting tired. She didn’t have any excuses.”
Julien Leparoux, jockey of Pure Fun, sixth – “That was the plan to be that far back. By the quarter pole she got me back to them but then she just kind of flattened out in the straight. She just didn’t have much more after that, but she ran OK. That was a very tough field.”
Joel Rosario, jockey of Closed Hatches, seventh – “I had a perfect trip. I thought she was going to be fine, but when it was time to go, she didn’t have it. She’ll be fine next time.”
Calvin Borel, jockey of Rose to Gold, eighth – “I had a good trip. Just got outrun. No excuse.”
Rosie Napravnik, jockey of Seaneen Girl, ninth – “I really had a great trip. She was kind of worked up in the post parade, and we were in a great spot, but I had her a little close for her considering the pace was so hot. But you know, she kind of got worked up with the crowd.’’
Gary Stevens, jockey of Silsita, 10th – “She was handling everything fine until the half-mile pole. She was a little rank with me early on and started struggling with the surface from the three-eighths pole on. She’s probably better left on turf.”
Darren RogersSenior Director, Communications & Media ServicesChurchill Downs700 Central AvenueLouisville, KY 40208
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