LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Long-shot Princess of Sylmar rallied with a huge stretch run to win the $1 million Kentucky Oaks on Friday at Churchill Downs.
One of four fillies trained by Todd Pletcher in the Grade 1 race, the 38-1 long shot upstaged 3-2 favorite Dreaming of Julia. That positioned Pletcher for a weekend sweep Saturday in the Kentucky Derby, where he has a record-tying five entries – including Verrazano.
A slow start doomed Dreaming of Julia, who lagged behind before recovering in the stretch to finish fourth. By then, Princess of Sylmar was thrilling a crowd of 113,820 with her third win in four starts this year.
Starting from the No. 6 post with Hall of Famer Mike Smith aboard, Princess of Sylmar ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.17 and paid $79.60, $29.40 and $14.00. Beholder returned $9 and $5.60, and Unlimited Budget, another Pletcher entry, paid $3.80 to show.
Princess of Sylmar gave Pletcher his third Oaks win and Smith his first, adding to a resume highlighted by a career Triple Crown – including a 2005 Derby victory aboard Giacomo.
"I've never come close in the Kentucky Oaks and I've always wanted to win this race so bad," Smith said. "I thank Todd for putting her in."
On numbers alone, Pletcher figured to get some return in the 10-horse field along with four competitors, including 48-1 choice Silsita. Dreaming of Julia was expected to provide the payoff, bringing in a 4-1-1 record including a 22-length win in her last start at Gulfstream Park on March 30.
But with a deep field featuring several unbeaten competitors, anything was possible.
Unlimited Budget, sired by 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense by Unlimited Pleasure, came in 4-0 under Pletcher. Close Hatches was 3-0 for trainer Bill Mott while Midnight Lucky was 2-0, providing Bob Baffert's lone on-track presence at Churchill Downs in a week that saw him scratch Code West and Govenor Charlie from the Derby.
Princess of Sylmar had her own claim to make with four wins in six career starts and a second to Close Hatches in last month's Grade 2 Gazelle at Aqueduct. Smith ultimately helped her talent show in the final turn.
As the field turned for home, Smith had her in the clear but fourth behind Midnight Lucky, Beholder and Unlimited Budget. Beholder dispatched Midnight Lucky but was caught by Princess of Sylmar in the stretch.