Don’t Tell Sophia rallied from last in the field of 10 fillies and mares to sail past 5-2 favorite Wine Princess en route to a 2 ¼-length victory in the 28th running of the $165,200 Chilukki (Grade II) on Saturday night at Churchill Downs.
Don’t Tell Sophia, a 5-year-old daughter of Congaree out of the Valid Expectations mare Lost Expectations, ran the one-turn mile, which was rated fast, in 1:35.14 – the fastest clocking of the race since Halory Leigh was timed in 1:35.05 in 2004.
Joe Rocco Jr. rode the winner for trainer Philip Simms, who co-owns the Kentucky-bred mare with Jerry Namy.
Devious Intent, Magic Hour and Cho Cho Cat battled for the early lead with the first quarter mile run in :22.88. Wine Princess rated just off the leaders from the outside and Don’t Tell Sophia trailed the field by as many as 8 ¼ lengths. After a half mile in :45.65, Wine Princess made her move on the turn and grabbed the lead at the head of the stretch, but Don’t Tell Sophia was rapidly picking off rivals one by one. She was angled out seven-wide entering the stretch and kicked on gamely for the triumph.
It was the seventh win in 16 career starts for Don’t Tell Sophia and her first graded stakes win. Earlier this year at Oaklawn Park, she won the ungraded $75,000 Pippin and $98,000 Bayakoa and was third behind One Fire Baby and Tiz Miz Sue in the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (GI).
She entered the Chilukki after a runner-up effort behind Magic Hour in the $102,600 Mari Hulman George at Indiana Downs on Oct. 5.
Don’t Tell Sophia, the 9-2 third betting choice, paid $11.20, $5.20 and $4. Wine Princess, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, returned $4 and $2.80. Awesome Flower, a 33-1 outsider with Channing Hill in the saddle, was another four lengths back in third and paid $10.60.
Ire, Pure Fun, Sisterly Love, Sky Girl, Magic Hour, Devious Intent and Cho Cho Cat completed the order of finish. Soft Whisper and Ice Cream Silence were scratched.
The $97,303 first prize increased Don’t Tell Sophia’s career earnings to $440,814.
The Chilukki is named in honor of the Bob Baffert-trained filly who won this event at age 3 in 2000 while setting a track record (1:33.57).
Saturday’s 10-race program also included the sixth running of the $62,400 Bet On Sunshine for sprinting 3-year-olds and up. Good Morning Diva, owned by George Kerr, drew clear in the stretch to win the six-furlong race by three lengths over Marchman in 1:09.35. The victory by the 4-5 favorite, who was ridden by Corey Lanerie, gave veteran trainer Rick Hiles his first career stakes win at Churchill Downs.
The 4-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Lion Heart out of the Tactical Advantage mare Missy’s Advantage improved his record to 5-3-4 in 17 starts, and the $37,513 winner’s share boosted his bankroll to $298,763. He paid $3.60 to win.
Racing at Churchill Downs resumes Sunday with a 10-race program that begins at 12:40 p.m. ET.
PHILIP SIMS, co-owner and trainer of DON’T TELL SOPHIA (winner): “She has that one good kick. We were concerned about the mile being a little short for us, but, of course, it worked out, thank goodness.”
Q: She was second in her last race off a layoff and had some trouble in the stretch … “She had some trouble in that race, but she was a little tighter today, so we kind of used this as a stepping stone to the Falls City Handicap (Grade II on Thanksgiving Day). We were a little concerned about the one-turn mile, but last year she won a 6 ½-furlong sprint here. She’s got that one big run and it doesn’t matter how far the distance is. We were hoping it would work out and it did.”
Q: Did she have a problem that kept here away from the races for so long? “She ran this winter and ran hard against some pretty good fillies. She’s a cool weather horse – she really likes the cool weather much better, so that’s why we laid low with her this summer and brought her back in the fall.”
JOE ROCCO JR., jockey on DON’T TELL SOPHIA (WINNER): “I had a lot of horse throughout. I was a little concerned at how far back I was early, because I didn’t want to be that far back. But she kind of gets slow going out of the gate and it takes her a while. But they were flying up front and they were all stacked up out in the middle of the racetrack, so I just tried to save as much ground as I could without committing to the inside fully. Man, I had a lot of horse – when I peeled her out, she took off.”
STEVE MARGOLIS, trainer of WINE PRINCESS (runner-up): “She always gives it her all and it took a real nice filly to beat us. Shaun (Bridgmohan) said we had a perfect trip, the right running style and we just wish we’d had a little more.
“Don’t Tell Sophia ran some really good races at Oaklawn and came off a layoff and just got beat at Indiana (Downs). It was just a really good race and a good effort to finish second against those.”
Q: A lot of people thought she might be gone at the head of the stretch … “We thought so, too. Shaun loved how she just turned off, he got her right where he wanted and then she opened up. But the other filly just came with a powerful run.”
SHAUN BRIDGMOHAN, jockey on WINE PRINCESS (runner-up): “She tried. I had her in the right position and she gave me a gallant effort. The other one just had a little bit more. We had a perfect stalking trip on the outside – I couldn’t ask for any better.”
BET ON SUNSHINE QUOTES
COREY LANERIE, jockey on GOOD MORNING DIVA (winner): “I rode him before and I found out he absolutely loves the rail and he’ll run through a crack that’s not even there. So that was my plan and I was hoping it would open a little more than it did, but we were lucky enough to get through and he was the best horse today.”
Q: Did you expect him to be as far back as he was? He was last in the early going ... “I didn’t. I was actually hoping we would be third or fourth. But when they (the leaders) ran so fast, I had to kind of ride as if I wanted to be up there, so I just let him run his race. Then on the turn when I called on him, we got to them so fast, I said just let it open up.”
RICK HILES, trainer of GOOD MORNING DIVA (winner): “He loves that fence. He didn’t when he first came here. He kind of wanted to lug out and stay off of it, but we worked with this horse and got him to where he loves it on that rail.”
Q: Corey Lanerie said he did not expect to be that far back – he was last on the backstretch … “We were concerned and surprised that he was last. But he wasn’t over six or seven lengths off the lead and when started round the turn I told Mr. Kerr (owner George Kerr) that if he gets through on the rail, he’s gonna win it. But he’s got to get through.
“But he was coming off a mile race and he hadn’t run in a couple of months, and he might not have been as speedy as he should have been. But he’s a good horse.”