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Breeders' Cup: Stanco's Princess of Sylmar has good shot in BC Distaff

Breeders' Cup: Stanco's Princess of Sylmar has good shot in BC Distaff

Fortunately, Ed Stanco has some work to distract him today. Fortunately, he and his family will have

Fortunately, Ed Stanco has some work to distract him today.

Fortunately, he and his family will have a car service to take them to the track on the big day, “so we don’t hurt anyone …

“You get absent-minded,” he said.

He speaks from experience.

The 1967 Linton High School graduate is a little preoccupied this week, and that will only accelerate as 7:35 p.m. approaches on Friday, when his 3-year-old filly, Princess of Sylmar, runs in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita Park.

Stanco has been in this position before, when he was a partner in long shot Capeside Lady in 2005. She went off at 57-1, and after setting the pace early, fell back to a respectable sixth.

The experience is exponentially different this time, because Stanco’s filly has grown in popularity with each Grade I victory and has a terrific shot to win the $2 million race for fillies and mares, which would set her up for year-end honors that could include Horse of the Year.

“Everything about that day [in 2005] seemed like it took hours to do little things,” Stanco said by phone on Wednesday evening. “You were stuck in the mud. The time-space continuum changes. Putting on a shirt and tie seemed like it took an hour to do.

“I’ll tell you, you can’t imagine the yips I’ve had the last two days. I’m pretty nervous. It’s pretty overwhelming.”

The Schenectady native is CEO of Toa Reinsurance in New Jersey and will be working at the Orange County office in California as the company closes its quarterly numbers today.

Then he’ll head to Santa Anita to say hi to Princess of Sylmar.

Winner of the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama at Saratoga Race Course, she’s the 9-5 second choice on the morning line behind Royal Delta, whom Princess of Sylmar beat in the Beldame at Belmont Park on Sept. 28.

Because Princess of Sylmar was not supplemented to the Breeders’ Cup, Stanco’s King of Prussia Stable had to pony up $100,000 to run in the Distaff.

Her entourage will include about 50 friends and family of Stanco.

“The day after the [Kentucky] Oaks, my son put me on Twitter in July, and I’m up to 500 followers,” Stanco said. “And it’s just been building. It’s incredible, the number of well-wishers, in this country and others. It’s so remarkable and satisfying that people care about it.”

Among the interested observers will be Don Lucarelli, a 1970 Mont Pleasant High graduate who is co-managing partner of Starlight Stable, which has had outstanding fillies of their own, including Ashado and Octave.

Stanco bumped into Lucarelli at Belmont Park on Oct. 5, when Starlight had Intense Holiday running in the Champagne.

“I guess there’s a little bit of the Linton-Mont Pleasant sports rivalry there, but he’s a really nice guy,” Stanco said. “Whenever I’m on with Mark Cusano [on Capital OTB TV’s “Down the Stretch”] now, he kids me by saying, ‘You’ve got to do it for Linton!’ ”

Princess of Sylmar will break from the outside post in what is a short, but intriguing, field of six. There is as much anticipation for the Distaff as for any of the other 13 Breeders’ Cup races to be run Friday and Saturday.

Not only will she face the 5-year-old two-time champion Royal Delta again, but also Beholder, the 2012 2-year-old filly champion, and Close Hatches, the only horse to finish ahead of Princess of Sylmar in a race this year.

“Capeside Lady was really exciting,” Stanco said. “The buildup was very similar to when Princess of Sylmar was in the Kentucky Oaks, because nobody paid attention to her. Capeside Lady usually was a front-runner, and I said to [jockey] Chris DeCarlo, ‘Please, I want to hear her name more than once.’ ”

Princess of Sylmar uses a different running style, coming from just off the pace with what has become a trademark explosive kick on the final turn of her races.

Stanco said he believes that that element helps make her a hit with the fans.

“She’s small, and I really believe that when a horse comes from behind, like Zenyatta, there’s that question of, oh, when is she going to go?” he said.

“She really has gotten a lot bigger than us. It’s huge. She’s so popular. It’s really crazy. I’ve said that we’re running for history and the fans, but we’re also running for the excitement for us, and we hope she can deliver.”

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