Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Sports

Oaks win sets up Pletcher for rarity

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A filly that trainer Todd Pletcher waffled on entering in the Kentucky Oaks has him poised to complete a rare double today in the Kentucky Derby.

Princess of Sylmar, a 38-1 long shot, rallied with a huge stretch run to win the $1 million Grade I Oaks on Friday at Churchill Downs.

One of four fillies in the race trained by Pletcher, she upstaged stablemate and 3-2 favorite Dreaming of Julia, who finished fourth. Unlimited Budget, another Pletcher entry, ran third behind 2-year-old filly champion Beholder.

Pletcher has a record-tying five entries in today's Derby. He can become the first trainer since Ben Jones in 1952 to pull off the Oaks-Derby double and the fourth overall.

Starting from the No. 6 post with Hall of Famer Mike Smith aboard, Princess of Sylmar ran 1⅛ miles in 1:49.17 and paid $79.60, $29.40 and $14. Beholder returned $9 and $5.60, Unlimited Budget $3.80 to show.

Pletcher got his third Oaks win, Smith his first, adding to a resume highlighted by a career Triple Crown, including a 2005 Derby victory aboard Giacomo, another long shot.

"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."

Early in the week, Pletcher wasn't sold on Princess of Sylmar's Oaks prospects.

Concerned after her April 20 workout, he said her final workout a week later was much better. He talked with owner and breeder Ed Stanco, head of King of Prussia Stable, who made the call to keep her in the race.

"Ed said, 'I want to take a shot; let's do it,' " Pletcher said. "I said, 'Here we go.' "

Double duty: Gary Stevens will ride in the Derby and report on it for NBC.

The Hall of Fame jockey will be aboard Oxbow, a 30-1 long shot. Stevens, 50, has ridden in 18 Derbys and won three times. He is four months into a comeback after being retired for seven years.

During his years out of the saddle, Stevens joined NBC as a racing analyst. He will contribute a taped interview to the broadcast today and will wear a microphone during the race.

"I am going to be a little bit greedy here and hope to become a main story line of the race," he said.

Another 'first' try: Rosie Napravnik, riding 15-1 choice Mylute, gets her second chance to become the first woman — six have tried — to win the Derby. Having earned $12 million last year and recently appearing on 60 Minutes and in the New York Times Magazine, she has a team of marketers behind her hoping she'll emerge as a national star by winning. No female jockey has come closer to winning than Napravnik, who finished ninth in 2011.

'Bo-rail' is back: Calvin Borel is one jockey always worth watching in the Derby. He and Revolutionary will break from the No. 3 spot in the starting gate, putting Borel near his favorite path on the track, the rail. The rider nicknamed "Bo-rail" for his fence-skimming rides has three Derby wins in the past six years.

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