LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A filly that trainer Todd Pletcher waffled on entering in the Kentucky Oaks has him poised to complete a rare double Saturday 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 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.
The win positioned Pletcher for a weekend sweep if he can claim the 139th Run for the Roses, where he has a record-tying five entries Saturday.
Pletcher aims to become the first trainer since Ben Jones in 1952 to pull off the Oaks/Derby double and the fourth overall. Jones did it with Real Delight in the Oaks and Hill Gail in the Derby.
Starting from the No. 6 post with Hall of Famer Mike Smith aboard, Princess of Sylmar ran 11⁄8 miles in 1 minute, 49.17 seconds and paid $79.60, $29.40 and $14. Beholder returned $9 and $5.60, and Unlimited Budget paid $3.80 to show.
Pletcher earned his third Oaks win while Smith claimed his first, adding to a résumé 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.”
Earlier 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 recalled. “I said, ‘Here we go.’ ”
BLACK ONYX SCRATCHED: Long shot Black Onyx was a late scratch for the Kentucky Derby because of a chip in his left ankle, leaving 19 horses to vie for the roses.
The scratch occurred Friday morning after early wagering for the race had opened, so Black Onyx’s No. 1 post position will be left empty Saturday. The remaining horses will stay in their original starting gate positions.
Trainer Kelly Breen said the colt looked good training Friday, but he had some swelling in the ankle. An X-ray was taken, which revealed the chip.
“He’s back in the barn. He’s not feeling that bad because he just tried to bite me,” Breen said. “It couldn’t have been worse timing.”
Black Onyx qualified for the Derby by winning the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park. He was 50-1 on the morning line.