LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Todd Pletcher saddled four of the 10 runners in Friday's Kentucky Oaks, so the odds were in his favor. What was stunning is that he joined 38-1 shot Princess of Sylmar in the winner's circle, not 3-2 favorite Dreaming of Julia or the previously undefeated Unlimited Budget.
Princess of Sylmar rallied wide for Mike Smith to overtake last year's 2-year-old champion, Beholder, and beat her by a half-length. Unlimited Budget was third, two lengths farther back, and Dreaming of Julia ran fourth after being knocked about at the start, giving Pletcher a 1-3-4 finish in the 3-year-old fillies' Derby before a Churchill Downs crowd of 113,820, second-largest ever for Oaks Day.
"Princess of Sylmar is better when she makes one run,'' Pletcher said, "and that's what she did today. We're pleasantly surprised.''
The Pennsylvania-bred paid $79.60 after running 11/8 miles in 1:49.17 for her fifth win in seven starts. She earned $589,000 in her first Grade I attempt, raising her earnings to $827,200 for King of Prussia Stable. She'd never gone off at more than 5-2.
Smith picked up the mount when Javier Castellano, her rider the previous two races, chose to stay with Unlimited Budget. In her last start, the Grade II Gazelle on April 6 at Aqueduct, Princess of Sylmar was second to Close Hatches, who finished seventh Friday, her first defeat.
"I rode her the way Todd told me to, to be patient, and they were perfect instructions,'' Smith said. "She was traveling well the whole time.'''
Pletcher, who won his third Oaks, has five chances Saturday to become the first trainer to hit the Oaks-Kentucky Derby double since Ben Jones (1952). When asked about chasing history, he said, "Well, we're the only ones who have a shot.''