Spa Stars: Princess of Sylmar under the radar no more

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Princess of Sylmar was more than 38-1 in her most recent start. She may not be favored when she steps into the starting gate for Saturday’s Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga Race Course, but if she isn’t she’ll be close.

Funny how a victory in front of one of the biggest crowds of the year and in one of the most prestigious stakes for 3-year-old fillies can change things. That victory was of course in the $1-million Kentucky Oaks May 3 at Churchill Downs.

“She came into the Oaks under the radar a bit, having came through New York,” trainer Todd Pletcher said Tuesday, three days before the Spa opened its door for its 40-day meeting. “But we weren’t surprised she was able to pull off a win.”

Pletcher or Ed Stanco, who campaigns the Majestic Warrior filly in the name of his King of Prussia Stable, may not have been caught off guard, but most were, thus the 38.80-1 odds.

The victory looked good at the time, a half-length score over last year’s champion 2-year-old filly Beholder.

The victory looks even better now, with Unlimited Budget, Dreaming of Julia and Midnight Lucky to her immediate rear. Eventual Mother Goose Stakes winner Close Hatches was also in the field.

“At the time everyone considered it to be one of the strongest Kentucky Oaks’ we’ve seen in a long time,” Pletcher said. “With another strong performance she would validate herself as the leading 3-year-old filly in the country.”

Pletcher kept Princess of Sylmar out of the early summer stakes for 3-year-old fillies and brought her to Saratoga in late June. She’s trained forwardly at the Spa, including a strong half mile Sunday on the main track, her third work locally.

“She’s doing really well,” Pletcher said. “I love the way she’s training. She’s coming up to the race in really good order.”

Pletcher, who always holds a strong hand heading into the Spa meet, also figures to send out Repole Stable’s Unlimited Budget in the 9-furlong CCA Oaks. John Velazquez will ride the Street Sense filly, who was sixth in the Belmont Stakes last time out in a race that Pletcher said was a “calculated risk” and not as bad as it might look on paper. Javier Castellano gets the call on Princess of Sylmar.