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What you need to know for 08/20/2017

Saratoga Race Course: Princess of Sylmar adds 'Bama

Saratoga Race Course: Princess of Sylmar adds 'Bama

Perhaps Princess of Sylmar can’t hear the chants of “Ed-die, Ed-die!” But she surely is responsible

Perhaps Princess of Sylmar can’t hear the chants of “Ed-die, Ed-die!”

But she surely is responsible for them.

The annoying rattle of the starting gate blocked out by white styro­foam balls she keeps in her ears all the time, Princess of Sylmar easily dispatched four other fillies to win the 133rd running of the Alabama before 34,951 at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday.

The charmed year enjoyed by Schenectady native Ed Stanco and his homebred chestnut — the only horse he has racing — reached its zenith at his hometown track, prompting his three “lunatic sons,” as he called them, and the rest of his big group of supporters to launch their now-familiar post-race chant.

They did it after the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, after the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga and again after Princess of Sylmar won her third straight Grade I that likely wraps up an Eclipse Award, despite the fact that it’s still August.

“She does it effortlessly. It’s nuts. It’s crazy,” Stanco said. “You know what? There was no thought. As she came and opened up, it was just like, wow, just look at this. There are no words. It was just so exciting.”

A 1967 graduate of Linton High, the 63-year-old CEO of Toa Reinsurance has homes in Pennsylvania

and New Jersey, but his wife, Ina, has suggested they get one in Sar­atoga Springs, too, and it will be difficult to resist now.

Princess of Sylmar, racing for Stanco’s nom de course King of Prussia Stable, is the sixth horse to win the Kentucky Oaks and Alabama since 1999, and only one of those, Flute, who was denied by Xtra Heat, did not also win the

3-year-old filly championship.

“I have to think so,” trainer Todd Pletcher said of the likelihood that Princess of Sylmar clinched an Eclipse with her Alabama win. “The Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks — that’s a pretty hard trifecta to win, so I’ll say she has definitely established herself as the champion 3-year-old filly, unless somebody does something big.”

Of Princess of Sylmar’s $1,367,220 in career purse money, all but $68,220 have been earned this year.

Princess of Sylmar, bred at Ron Houghton’s highly regarded Sylmar Farm in western Pennsylvania, near the Stancos’ home, might not race again this year.

She hasn’t had more than a short break since her career began last October, and Stanco is averse to going to the Breeders’ Cup.

So the Alabama was the ultimate moment to savor.

The scratch of long shot Tell a Great Story left just four, including Black-Eyed Susan winner Fiftyshadesofhay, to maneuver around.

Ridden by Javier Castellano, the daughter of Majestic Warrior out of the Catienus mare Storm Dixie was eager to get after it heading into the first turn, but responded to Castellano’s request to settle in behind Carnival Court, Montana Native and Fiftyshadesofhay, with long shot Galloping Giraffe, as expected, trailing well behind.

Castellano kept Princess of Sylmar, who was 3-5 on the morning line and went off at 1-2, in a comfortable spot outside down the backstretch, taking the possibility of traffic trouble out of the

equation.

Then he let her go after them inside the half-mile pole.

“With a small field, there was not much to think about,” Castellano said. “I just let her enjoy the trip, and when she was ready to go, I asked her, and she just took off. She went right by them. She’s an amazing horse.”

“When I was watching on the binoculars and she was right there at the beginning of the turn, I thought she just wanted the whole thing,” Stanco said. “She was springing away. I thought, ‘Oh, my God, she’s going right now!’ I thought in the backstretch she was going then, too. Then it was just an explosion.”

Castellano gave Princess of Sylmar one shot with the stick at the eighth pole to light the fuse, and Princess of Sylmar did the rest.

Fiftyshadesofhay had by far the best credentials out of the rest of the field and finished willingly, but was simply not at the same level as Princess of Sylmar, who won by

21⁄2 lengths.

“There wasn’t a whole lot of pace,” Pletcher said. “She was

doing it on her own. She was in a nice rhythm, so I thought she was in a perfect spot. I thought she won pretty convincingly.

“Anytime you run a mile and a quarter, it can be a taxing race, but I thought she did it well within herself.”

It ended a long but glorious day for Stanco.

He choked up for a moment on the air while being interviewed on the phone during Mark Cusano’s “Down the Stretch” program on Capital OTB TV in the morning.

Nervous and queasy moments came later.

“This morning, I was good; midday,

I was weak; at 4 and 5 o’clock, I had very weak knees, it was hard for me to walk around,” Stanco said. “And it’s such a release. Then once I saw her in the paddock, then all that disappears. Because it’s all up to her, it’s not up to me.”

Princess of Sylmar was utterly calm in the paddock, not a drop of sweat on her, and she had her customary earplugs in place.

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