SARATOGA SPRINGS -- She began her career last fall at little Penn National, out in the deer hunter country of central Pennsylvania. Princess of Sylmar became a queen at Saratoga, unofficially clinching the 3-year-old filly championship with a runaway in the Grade I Alabama Stakes.
As owner-breeder Ed Stanco led her into the winner's circle, his entourage chanted "Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!" He had already seen Princess of Sylmar take the Kentucky Oaks and Coaching Club American Oaks, the division's other two major events, so this was nothing new. Still, Stanco beamed like a first-time bettor who had hit a trifecta.
"She's the first horse I bred,'' Stanco said, "and here she is. Wasn't it something the way she took off? She wanted to go a lot earlier, and I thought she was going to explode.''
Javier Castellano rode with complete confidence, sitting fourth of five before moving midway on the stretch turn. Princess of Sylmar's four-wide burst blew open the race, and she drew clear of runner-up Fiftyshadesofhay by 2½ lengths.
Todd Pletcher, a lock for his 10th Spa training title, is masterful at winning stakes with 2-year-olds. At Stanco's request, he took his time last year with Princess of Sylmar. "We decided to just go easy with her and let her build,'' Stanco said. "She's small and needed more weight, so we decided to just take our time.''
Treating the Pennsylvania-bred like his only child has paid off for Stanco. Princess of Sylmar, named for the farm where she was foaled, paid $3 after 1¼ miles on a fast track in 2:03.21. She's 7-for-9, and the $360,000 winner's share raised her career total above $1.367 million.
She also enriched Deborah White, who won a drawing to bet $15,000 put up by Saratoga socialite Marylou Whitney and her husband, John Hendrickson. White, who is single and works two jobs, made $22,500, though not tax-free, without risking a cent. "This has been a fun promotion,'' Hendrickson said. White smiled and waved her ticket for the cameras and crowd of 34,951.
Joy for 'Kittens'. Ken Ramsey, Saratoga's leading owner, was in suburban Chicago at Arlington International. A half-hour before the Alabama, it looked as if maybe he should have stayed here when his 5-year-old Big Blue Kitten rallied under Joe Bravo to win the Grade I, $600,000 Sword Dancer Invitational. Twenty minutes after Big Blue Kitten ($7.90) crossed the wire a length ahead of Twilight Eclipse, Ramsey's Admiral Kitten (5-1) won Arlington's Grade I, $500,000 Secretariat Stakes for jockey Rosie Napravnik.
Those wins put $660,000 into Ramsey's pockets, and his good fortune didn't stop there. About an hour after the Secretariat, Ramsey's 4-year-old colt Real Solution and jockey Alan Garcia finished second by a head in the 1¼ -mile Million but were awarded the win on a disqualification. After a long inquiry, the stewards took down The Apache for coming out under Christophe Soumillon's lefthanded whip and bumping Real Solution twice in deep stretch.
Chad Brown, who was at Saratoga, trains Big Blue Kitten (Ramsey is a Kentucky graduate) and Real Solution. Mike Maker trains Admiral Kitten (Ramsey served in the Navy).
Real Solution paid $18.80, and besides pocketing another $600,000 Ramsey said he also "bet him, then went back and bet him two more times. I thought the odds were too big.''
Talk about having a day.
Ramsey, a colorful, 77-year-old Kentuckian, grinned while wearing a wreath of red and white flowers. "This is right up there with winning the Dubai World Cup ,'' he said. "All three winners were sired by Kitten's Joy, and I think his stud fee is going up from $50,000.
"It was a great day for the Kittens. It couldn't be better than this.''