Princess of Sylmar, locally-owned by King of Prussia Stable and foaled about 30 miles from Delaware Park, tops the 77th renewal of the Grade 1, $750,000 Delaware Handicap on Saturday. Only five other distaffers will line up against the Todd Pletcher trainee in the 1 1/4-mile contest.
Princess of Sylmar made a name for herself last year as a sophomore, going on a four-race, Grade 1 win streak comprised of the Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks, Alabama and Beldame Invitational. In the latter contest, the chestnut filly defeated multiple champion and two-time Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic heroine Royal Delta.
Expected to sit out the rest of the year, Princess of Sylmar's connections pulled an audible and entered their Majestic Warrior filly into the Breeders' Cup Distaff, where she faced Beholder on her home turf. That filly was caught by Princess of Sylmar while trying to wire the Kentucky Oaks and forced to settle for second. Beholder gained a measure of revenge when capturing the Distaff, and eventually the Eclipse Award as champion three-year-old filly, while her rival ran sixth
Princess of Sylmar didn't return to action until April 6, easily scoring in the Cat Cay at Aqueduct before facing tougher two months later in the Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park. That race included not only Beholder but Close Hatches, who had defeated Princess of Sylmar in her first graded try, the Gazelle, as a sophomore.
Close Hatches got the win in the Ogden Phipps as well but had to fight Princess of Sylmar for it. The Pennsylvania-bred miss held Close Hatches to just a head on the wire, while Beholder was fourth by a length after suffering a pastern injury.
Princess of Sylmar has posted a trio of works over Belmont's training track since the Phipps, including a half-mile move in :48 4/5 on Sunday. Javier Castellano will be aboard Saturday as she attempts to become just the second Keystone State-bred to win the Delaware Handicap, following Heavenly Ade in 1980, and give Pletcher a record-breaking fifth victory in the race. A win would would also be a nice present for Castellano, who celebrates his 10th wedding anniversary on race day.
Princess of Sylmar will tote the highweight of 123 pounds as the even-money morning-line favorite in the Delaware Handicap.
Molly Morgan is second on both the morning-line and in terms of weight. The Ghostzapper five-year-old has been assigned 119 pounds at 3-1 under Corey Lanerie off a four-length romp in the Fleur de Lis Handicap on June 14. That followed a nice second in the La Troienne, and Molly Morgan could be peaking just in time to make it two-in-a-row Saturday.
Flashy American enters the Delaware 'Cap off a nice win in the Sixty Sails Handicap and a runner-up effort in the Fleur de Lis. The Kenny McPeek trainee spent the first 11 races of her career just trying to break her maiden, but developed into a tough stakes opponent last summer as a four-year-old. Now five, the gray daughter of Flashy Bull will have Alex Cintron in the irons Saturday as the 7-2 third morning-line choice under a 118-pound impost.
"She is a rock solid mare," McPeek asserted. "During her career, we tried pretty much everything with her. She has pretty much settled into going long on the dirt. As long as you run her two-turns on the dirt, she has been pretty much right there every time. She is coming into the race great. This is as good as she has ever been. She is a really easy mare to be around, but at the same time, she is a big tough filly."
Gamay Noir readied for the Delaware Handicap with a win over the track last out in the Obeah. The four-year-old daughter of Harlan's Holiday closed from well back in that nine-furlong local prep to score by a half-length for trainer Marty Wolfson. It was her second graded win of the year following another rallying victory in the Rampart in late March. Sandwiched between those two triumphs was a third in the Sixty Sails behind Flashy American.
"I have been fortunate to have run some nice fillies in this race and they have run well. It just depends on the horse," said Wolfson, who saddled back-to-back seconds with Icon Project (2009) and Miss Singhsix (2010).
Bryan's Jewel and Belle Gallantey complete the Delaware Handicap field. The former is no stranger to the track, splitting her time between there and Oaklawn Park for trainer McLean Robertson. The Rockport Harbor six-year-old has never tried the Delaware 'Cap, though she did post back-to-back wins in the John W. Rooney and Obeah last year. The gray mare has yet to score this season, but placed in the Winter Melody and Justakiss in last past pair. Jevian Toledo will ride.
Belle Gallantey ran fifth in the Ogden Phipps most recently in just her second stakes try from 40 lifetime starts. The After Market mare's only other foray against black-type rivals resulted in a third in the 2011 Fantasy.
There are three stakes scheduled on the Delaware Handicap undercard, including the $100,000 Sweet and Sassy sending nine distaffers six furlongs.