Region-breds knock down three graded stakes
by Ted Black
On a weekend in which the national spotlight would shine brightly on Churchill Downs when it hosted the 139th edition of the Kentucky Derby and its accompanying race for fillies, the Kentucky Oaks, horses bred in neighboring Mid-Atlantic states earned a trio of graded stakes triumphs.
Last Friday afternoon, Churchill Downs offered the latest renewal of the Grade I, $1 million Kentucky Oaks for three-year-olds fillies featuring five of the best sophomore ladies in the land – Dreaming of Julia, Midnight Lucky, Unlimited Budget, Close Hatches and Beholder, last year’s Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies victress and Eclipse Award winner as champion two-year-old filly.
While Dreaming of Julia and Midnight Lucky vied for favoritism and both Unlimited Budget and Beholder attracted plenty of attention from the wagering public, Pennsylvania-bred Princess of Sylmar was virtually completely overlooked at 38-1. While trainer Todd Pletcher’s two other starters in the Oaks, Dreaming of Julia and Unlimited Budget, arrived off Grade II triumphs, Princess of Sylmar was still seeking her first graded stakes tally.
Yet when the dust had settled, Pletcher’s unheralded third entrant, Princess of Sylmar overcame a rough start to rally for a length victory in 1:49.17 with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith aboard.
A homebred daughter of Majestic Warrior out of the Catienus mare, Storm Dixie, Princess of Sylmar notched her third win in four starts this year and her fifth tally in seven career outings for Pletcher and owner-breeder Ed Stanco’s King of Prussia Stable. Princess of Sylmar had finished second to Close Hatches last month in the Grade II Gazelle at Aqueduct, but last Friday afternoon she picked the ideal time to garner her first graded stakes triumph.[pullquote]Then when she took the lead I said, ‘Oh my God, she can win this race!’ It’s totally overwhelming; it really is,” Stanco said.[/pullquote]
“She’s still our little filly from Pennsylvania,” said Stanco, who noted that Storm Dixie is in foal to Petionville. “Words can’t describe what it was like watching her win. When I saw her come into the stretch in fourth, I thought she was going to run third. Then when she took the lead I said, ‘Oh my God, she can win this race!’ It’s totally overwhelming; it really is. We went to the infield for the presentation and looked back at 100,000 people and it was totally surreal.”
Several races earlier on the Kentucky Oaks undercard, another Pennsylvania-bred three-year-old filly regained her winning ways when So Many Ways rallied for a 7-1 upset in the Grade III, $150,000 Eight Belles Stakes. A daughter of Sightseeing out of a Dehere mare, So Many Ways notched her first win in three starts this year for trainer Tom Amoss and owner Maggi Moss and posted her fourth victory in six career outings, pushing her lifetime bankroll to nearly $425,000 while covering the seven furlongs in 1:22.84.
Last year at age two, So Many Ways triumphed in her career debut at Parx Racing then captured the Grade III Schuylerville Stakes and the Grade I Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga. But after beginning her sophomore campaign with a pair of setbacks, So Many Ways had fallen out of favor with the wagering public until she rallied to capture the Eight Belles on the Oaks undercard with Garrett Gomez aboard.
On Saturday Delaunay vaulted Maryland-breds into the limelight with an emphatic score in the Grade II Churchill Downs Handicap. Riding a five-race winning streak dating back to last September, Delaunay went off as the 9-5 favorite despite the presence of defending champion sprinter Trinniberg.
Away well from his outside post, Delaunay stalked Trinniberg down the backside and into the far turn, surged to command at the top of the lane and then splashed home as much the best to a five-length victory under the talented Rosie Napravnik, a New Jersey native who began her racing career in Maryland. A six-year-old gelded son of Smoke Glacken, a stellar Maryland-bred in his own right and Eclipse Award winning sprinter, Delaunay notched his third straight sharp score to start the season and his sixth straight tally overall for trainer Tom Amoss and owner Maggi Moss and did so by splashing through the seven panels in 1:22.35.
“It worked out good, like we hoped,” said Amoss, who claimed Delaunay for $40,000 from Dane Kobiskie at Churchill Downs roughly one year earlier. “I thought it was a benefit having the outside post, but as good as he is right now I don’t think it mattered.”[pullquote]”I thought it was a benefit having the outside post, but as good as he is right now I don’t think it mattered,” said Delaunay’s trainer Tom Amoss.[/pullquote]
While Delaunay might have posted the most impressive victory of the weekend for Maryland-breds, obviously the most prestigious triumph of the year to this point for any horse with Maryland ties belonged to Orb when he splashed through the Churchill Downs stretch to capture the 139th edition of the Kentucky Derby as the tepid 5-1 favorite.
A son of former Maryland standout stallion Malibu Moon, and co-owned and bred by longtime Maryland racing advocate Stuart Janney, III, whose family has owned past stars Ruffian, Private Terms and Coronado’s Quest, Orb kept his perfect sophomore campaign in tact with his fourth win in as many starts this year and his fifth triumph in seven career outings, doubling his lifetime bankroll past $2 million.
The Shug McGaughey trainee will continue his bid to become the sport’s 12th Triple Crown winner when he heads to the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on Saturday, May 18.