Returning from a 175-day layoff, Don’t Tell Sophia rallied from last in a field of six fillies and mares to roll past Molly Morgan en route to a 2 ¼ length victory in the 31st running of the $108,200 Locust Grove on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Don’t Tell Sophia, a 6-year-old daughter of Congaree out of the Valid Expectations mare Lost Expectations, ran the 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in 1:44.93 to notch her sixth career stakes win.
Joe Rocco Jr. rode the winner for trainer Phil Sims, who co-owns the Kentucky-bred mare with Jerry Namy.
Longshot Baby Fresh set the pace along the inside in a pedestrian :25.31, and was headed after a half-mile by 9-5 favorite On Fire Baby in :49.76. Don’t Tell Sophia, who saved ground along the inside, trailed by about five lengths before making a sweeping five-wide move on the final turn to engage the leaders and draw clear for the win.
Don’t Tell Sophia, who banked $66,413 and improved her record to 21-10-4-3—$679,295, paid $6.20, $2.80 and $2.60 as the 2-1 second betting choice. Molly Morgan returned $3.40 and $2.60. Frivolous was another nose back in third and paid $5.20. Ria Antonia, Baby Fresh and On Fire Baby, who stopped on the second turn, completed the order of finish.
Don’t Tell Sophia, the winner of last fall’s Chilukki (GII) at Churchill Downs, began her 2014 campaign with back-to-back $100,000 stakes victories at Oaklawn Park in the Pippin and Bayakoa before finishing third beaten 1 ¾ lengths behind Magic Union and multiple Grade I-winner Close Hatches in Oaklawn’s Azeri (GII). She also won the Pippin and Bayakoa in 2013.
The bay mare was purchased by Sims as a yearling for the bargain price of $1,000.
The Locust Grove was one of four stakes races Saturday at Churchill Downs. The stakes race is named after the 1790 Georgian mansion in Louisville that played home to ancestors of Churchill Downs founder Col. M. Lewis Clark.
LOCUST GROVE HANDICAP QUOTES
PHIL SIMS, trainer of Don’t Tell Sophia (winner): “She’s been doing well and she’s been training fine. We went into this race with a lot of confidence. I’d rather they be a little bit quicker, but she wasn’t too far off the pace.
“She shows up, you can count on her. She likes this track, too, a whole lot. If you look at her, you know she’s not a thousand dollar horse. She just happened to be in the right place. She’s by Congaree who wasn’t a faster stallion, but that’s what I look for. Her mother was a graded stakes placed horse, and her mother was a nice horse. I look for those kind of horses, maybe not that fast of stallion but they can have the physique as well.”
Regarding next start: “I don’t know. There’s the Spinster that could be a possibility. We’ll just see. This filly ran a game race to Close Hatches at Oaklawn. We’ll see.”
JOE ROCCO JR., jockey of Don’t Tell Sophia (winner): “She was able to lay a little closer than she normally does; she did that on her own. The pace made it easier for her to be a little closer. So she stayed in within striking range. With the slow fractions you always worry they might run on by you; but she did well today I had a lot of horse. They really did an amazing job with her coming off of that layoff and boy was she ready today.”
COREY LANERIE, jockey of Molly Morgan (second): “It was a good trip; I found myself right behind Frivolous and On Fire Baby. I was hoping to get to the rail and maybe give her the same kind of trip I gave her in the Fleur de Lis, but it didn’t work out. I had a good trip all-in-all. Unfortunately, we were just second best today.”
ANITA CAULEY, owner of On Fire Baby (sixth as the 1.90-1 favorite) “I think it’s time for her to go home and be a broodmare. We’ve had a good run, but it’s time.”