|By Frank Fitzpatrick, The Philadelphia Inquirer|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
"This was over 20 years ago, when nobody did that," said his son, Adam, a Pac-12 Network producer. "He was an excellent handicapper. His ROI [return on investment] was ridiculous."
On Saturday, Stanco, sans laptop, will be back at
This time, the 64-year-old insurance executive, along with his wife, children, and en entourage of 100, will be occupying the owners' boxes. And Princess of Sylmar, the fairy-tale,
"It's surreal," Stanco said this week, after his horse drew the outside post in the six-horse field of fillies and mares. "We used to come down all the time, my wife and I and our kids. This was our track for many years. I saw a lot of Delaware Handicaps, and I'd never have believed I'd have a filly with a shot in the Delaware Handicap. It's so cool."
Princess of Sylmar, a striking 4-year-old who resembles a distant ancestor, Secretariat, had a spectacular 3-year-old season until she finished a disappointing sixth at the Breeders' Cup Distaff in November.
After capturing the Kentucky Oaks as a 39-1 long shot, she won the Coaching Club American Oaks, the Alabama Stakes, and the Beldame Stakes. Then, Stanco, somewhat reluctantly, entered her in the Breeders' Cup.
The race was billed as a match between two-time winner
"The day before, she was in excellent physical condition," Stanco said. "But, at Santa Anita, they have a stabling barn. It's not open-air. They kept them in there for about a half hour. She got really heated up.
"When she came out of it, she was all wet, and she just didn't look good in the paddock. Then she stumbled at the gate."
Afterward, Stanco, who never bred a horse until 2009, gave the dream horse foaled at Ron and Betsy Houghton's Sylmar farm in
The competition doesn't figure to be as stiff in the 11/4-mile event at
For handicappers like Stanco, the only question appears to be how well Princess handles the heat.
"Since I've been to so many Delaware Handicaps, I've experienced the infamous humidity," Stanco said. "I'm a little concerned about that."
He said his horse bounced back nicely after being edged in the riveting Phipps duel on Belmont Stakes day.
"Obviously we would have liked to have gotten to the wire first," he said, "but it was an excellent performance."
This season, like last, could conclude for Princess of Sylmar with a Breeders' Cup Distaff appearance at Santa Anita.
"Our view is, we take one at a time," he said. "If she comes out OK here, we're going to go to the Personal Ensign" in late August at Saratoga. "Then, after that, we'd go to a race in September at Belmont, the Beldame. If she's in good shape, we'd look to go back to the Breeders' Cup."
Until then, this relatively novice owner will continue to pinch himself.
"I go home every night and look at the Kentucky Oaks trophy on the mantel," he said, "and I can't believe it happened. Even after a year and a half, I still can't believe it."
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