Princess of Sylmar will make her first start since winning the Kentucky Oaks when she competes in the Grade 1, $300,000 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
The TVG Coaching Club American Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-old fillies, is the first Grade 1 of the 2013 Saratoga meet. It was carded as the 10th race and will be preceded by the Grade 3, $200,000 84 Shuvee Shuvee Handicap.
Princess of Sylmar hinted at her potential when she broke her maiden by 19 lengths at Penn National last November. Based in New York during the winter, she rattled off three straight
dominating victories over Aqueduct’s inner track – an optional claimer in December, the Busanda in January, and the Busher in February – before she was second to Close Hatches in her graded stakes debut, the Grade 2 Gazelle in April on Aqueduct’s main track.
Pletcher said a lack of pace in the Gazelle compromised Princess of Sylmar, who subsequently made up a 10-length deficit when she rallied from ninth to post a 38-1 upset in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.
While Pletcher’s three other Kentucky Oaks starters (Unlimited Budget, 3rd; Dreaming of Julia, 4th; Silsita, 10th) all have competed since the May 3 race, Princess of Sylmar has been training up to the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks, with the long-range objective being Saratoga’s Grade 1 Alabama on August 17.
“[Owner] Ed Stanco said a long time ago that he would really love to win the Alabama,” said Pletcher. “After the Kentucky Oaks we looked at the schedule and felt that if we were going to run twice, this would be a similar program to what she had when she had a little bit of a break and ran in the Gazelle and the Kentucky Oaks. Hopefully, this will set her up nicely.”
Both the Kentucky Oaks and TVG Coaching Club American Oaks are contested at 1 1/8 miles.
“We have no issues with her handling the distance,” said Pletcher. “She’s a very relaxed filly who turns off easily, so we’ll let her relax in the early part of the race and hope she finishes well. Based on the way she has breezed over the track, I’d be pretty confident she handles it well.”
Javier Castellano will ride Princess of Sylmar, the 9-5 morning-line favorite, from post position 4.
Unlimited Budget has made one start since her third-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks, racing evenly when sixth, beaten 8 ½ lengths, against males in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes on June 8.
Prior to the Kentucky Oaks, Unlimited Budget had won four straight, including the Grade 2 Demoiselle in November, Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra in February, and the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks.
“I thought, physically, she handled it well,” said Pletcher of Unlimited Budget’s Belmont Stakes performance. “She came out of it in good shape. We were asking a lot of her, but she didn’t disgrace herself. We’ll try again back in against fillies. She’s never run here before, but she has trained well, and the cutback to a mile and an eighth she should appreciate.”
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will ride Unlimited Budget, the 2-1 morning-line second choice, for the first time since the Demoiselle. The Street Sense filly drew post 3.
The TVG Coaching Club American Oaks will mark the return to graded stakes competition for Michael Dubb’s My Happy Face, who won the Lotka overnight stakes by 2 ½ lengths on June 13 at Belmont Park in her most recent start, which was her first for trainer Chad Brown.
Previously, My Happy Face won the Grade 3 Tempted and was second in the Grade 1 Frizette and Grade 2 Forward Gal for trainer Rudy Rodriguez.
“I didn’t know the filly all that well [before the Lotka],” said Brown. “I was able to breeze her only three times before that race. Rudy had done a lot of the foundation work and sent her to me in perfect shape. She came out of the race better than I expected. She really moved forward off the race. I’m excited to run her.”
The TVG Coaching Club American Oaks will be My Happy Face’s first start beyond one mile and around two turns.
“When I was looking at her past performances when she was first transferred to me, I was a little skeptical she’d be able to go two turns,” said Brown. “With the way she is training, she is acting like it won’t be a problem. We’ll just have to try it to know for sure.”
My Happy Face, 3-1, will have the services of Joel Rosario from the rail.
The field also includes Marathon Lady, third in the Grade 1 Mother Goose on June 22, and Cue the Moon, fourth in the Grade 1 Acorn.