Weekend Recap: “Ron” Upsets in Jockey Club Gold Cup, “Princess” Handles Royal Delta

Game On Dude

Game On Dude (center) is the earyy favorite for the Breeders' Cup Classic and Horse of the Year

There were plenty of surprises over the weekend, with Ron the Greek pulling off the upset in the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) paying $44.00 and Little Mike rebounding in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (G1) returning $16.80.

However, one of the biggest surprises (at least to me) was the effort by Princess of Sylmar, the talented three-year-old filly who ran right by two-time defending Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (G1) winner Royal Delta to win the Beldame Invitational (G1).

I thought Royal Delta had the tactical advantage and was sent off as the heavy betting favorite. She tracked the early pace set by longshot Roman Invader, taking over the lead heading for home but was unable to hold off the winner in the stretch.


Princess of Sylmar Wins Beldame

We have seen much better from Royal Delta, as she just did not show her usual punch, and she was coming into the race off a couple of really sharp wins in the Delaware Handicap (G1) and Personal Ensign (G1).

The Todd Pletcher trained Princess of Sylmar has now won six of her seven starts this year and has reeled off four Grade 1 wins in a row. She won the Kentucky Oaks (G1) at 39-1, and followed that up with wins in the Coaching Club of America Oaks, Alabama and now the Beldame in her first go against older.

Could she be toying around with a shot at Horse of the Year honors?

If she were to defeat Royal Delta again in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) it would give her five Grade 1 wins. However, she is not nominated to the Breeders’ Cup and would have to be supplemented at a cost of $100,000.

While Pletcher said they would give it a couple of weeks to decide whether to run in the Breeders’ Cup, her owner Ed Stanco told the Daily Racing Form, “I think she’s done enough in her division. She’s done it all, and then she won against the top older female. There’s no more to do. I don’t know what we’ll do yet, but that’s where I’m starting to come down. I really want to make sure she’s good for next year.”

The connections get plenty of credit for bypassing the $1 million Cotillion (G1) at Parx which is restricted to three-year-old fillies to run against older including Royal Delta for a $400,000 purse.

However, it will be disappointing if the best filly or mare in training is sitting on the sidelines next month on racing’s championship two-day event.

How do you pass on a $2 million race where you will be of the top choices, with an outside shot of taking down Horse of the Year honors?

The obvious front-runners for Horse of the Year right now are Game On Dude and Wise Dan, but if they both come up short in the Breeders’ Cup, you certainly could make a case for the filly if she wins the Distaff, which would be her fifth Grade 1 win, with two of those coming against older.

Game On Dude is perfect in five starts this year with three Grade 1 wins and a pair of Grade 2 victories. Wise Dan has won all five of his starts this year, a pair of Grade 2 wins and three Grade 1 wins. His connections have received some criticism for not trying the gelding on dirt or taking him out of his comfort zone which is mile races on the grass.

It’s still possible Princess of Sylmar would not even face Royal Delta again in the Distaff. Royal Delta’s connections are still considering running her against the boys in the $5 million Classic, although after her performance on Saturday, the Distaff would seem like the better spot.

Here’s hoping the connections of Princess of Sylmar fork over the $100,000 and make Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff one the most exciting races of the two-day event.


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