Oaklawn News

Don’t Tell Sophia Works Toward 2015 Debut

Breeders’ Cup Distaff runner-up Don’t Tell Sophia took the first step toward her scheduled 2015 debut in the $100,000 Pippin Stakes Jan. 17 at Oaklawn with an easy half-mile workout over a fast surface Friday morning.

Working from the half-mile pole to the wire, just after the break, Don’t Tell Sophia covered the distance in :51 without any urging from exercise rider Fernando Martinez. Clockers caught Don’t Tell Sophia’s last quarter in :24 1/5 and galloping out five furlongs in 1:04 1/5. Trainer Phil Sims had planned to breeze Don’t Tell Sophia this weekend, but moved the work up because of forecasted rain.

“Just went easy,” Sims said. “She’ll get a strong gallop during the week and get a work in again next Saturday, probably.”

Sims, who also co-owns the 6-year-old Congaree mare, said her next breeze will probably be five furlongs under regular rider Joe Rocco Jr. Following the work, Sims said Don’t Tell Sophia is being pointed for the Pippin, a 1 1/16-mile race she’s won the last two years.

Don’t Tell Sophia, who arrived in Hot Springs last Saturday, is also the two-time defending champion of Oaklawn’s $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes (elevated to G3 in 2015).

After scoring her biggest career victory in the $500,000 Spinster Stakes (G1) Oct. 5 at Keeneland, Don’t Tell Sophia finished second in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) Oct. 31 at Santa Anita. In her final start this year, ran second in the $200,000 Falls City Handicap (G2) Nov. 27 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

Her major spring objective is the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares April 10 at Oaklawn.

State of ‘Shock’

Trainer Doug Anderson said three races are under consideration for multiple stakes winner Sugar Shock’s scheduled comeback early next year, including the $100,000 Pippin Stakes Jan. 17 at Oaklawn and the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic Jan. 24 at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston.

Sugar Shock recorded her biggest career victory in the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies last April at Oaklawn, but hasn’t started since failing to finish as the 5-2 third choice in the $200,000 Iowa Oaks (G3) June 28 at Prairie Meadows in Iowa.

Anderson said Sugar Shock didn’t handle the mud in the Iowa Oaks and regular rider Channing Hill decided to pull her up at the top of the stretch, adding there was nothing physically wrong with the Kentucky-bred daughter of Candy Ride.

“Just a lot of mud that day and she said, ‘No,’ ” Anderson said. “We just turned her out and let her grow up. She had a pretty hard spring campaign.” Sugar Shock was turned out at Rose Hill Farm in Lexington, Ky., where she was broken, and rejoined his stable in late September. She has been breezing for a little more than a month, Anderson said.

After two published three-furlong works in November at Churchill Downs, Sugar Shock breezed five furlongs in 1:02 Dec. 21 at Oaklawn. In addition to the Pippin and Houston Ladies Classic, Anderson said Sugar Shock could launch her 2015 campaign in Oaklawn’s $100,000 American Beauty Stakes Jan. 24.

The Pippin and Houston Ladies Classic are both 1 1/16 miles. The American Beauty is six furlongs.

Anderson said the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 10 is a major target for the versatile Sugar Shock, to “see if she can handle the mile and a sixteenth again.”

“She might be a little bit better as a sprinter, but we don’t know yet,” Anderson said.

Sugar Shock broke her maiden sprinting at the 2014 Oaklawn meeting before winning a first-level allowance/optional claiming sprint, and, in her first start around two turns, being disqualified from a victory in the $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) in March.

After winning the Fantasy at 1 1/16 miles, Sugar Shock ran eighth in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs and captured the $75,000 Panthers Stakes May 31 at Prairie Meadows.

“She looks like she’s grown up some,” said Anderson, part of the filly’s ownership group (On Cloud Nine, LLC). “We’re looking forward to a pretty decent year, hopefully.”

Sugar Shock is among 13 horses Anderson has at Oaklawn.

Sugar Shock, a $20,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sales graduate, was bred by Pam and Martin Wygod, who owned 1996 Apple Blossom winner Twice the Vice.

Cox Climbs to New Heights

High-percentage trainer Brad Cox smashed previous personal bests across the board in 2014, a year highlighted by his first graded stakes victory and first Breeders’ Cup starter.

“It was a good year,” said Cox, 34, who annually winters at Oaklawn. “I hope to do bigger and better things next year, but I wouldn’t say I was blown away. It just happens, and you just get up the next day and keep doing it, really.”

Through Thursday, Cox had won 75 of 290 starts (25.9 percent), and his horses had earned $2,384,976 this year. His previous high for victories (55) and purse earnings ($924,770) occurred in 2010.

The trainer’s career year was sparked by his success at Oaklawn, where he finished tied for fourth in victories – 18 from just 70 starters – and fourth in purse earnings ($683,976) in 2014. Among the highlights, he saddled Carve, owned by Mike Langford of Jonesboro, Ark., to a third-place finish in the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses.

Carve went on to win the $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (G3) June 28 at Prairie Meadows and run sixth in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) Oct. 31 at Santa Anita. These represented the first graded stakes winner and Breeders’ Cup starter for Cox since he saddled his first career winner in 2004.

Cox is pointing Carve toward the $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes Jan. 10 at Oaklawn, with the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 11 again the major spring objective.

“He could very easily be as good next year as he was this year,” Cox said.

Known for his shrewd claims, Cox won a three-way shake, or blind draw, to take Prosecution for $16,000 last February at Oaklawn on behalf of Arkansas owners Staton Flurry (Hot Springs) and Starsky Weast (Star City).

Prosecution, a 5-year-old A.P. Indy gelding, subsequently became a force in starter-allowance company, good enough to win at Churchill Downs and Saratoga, the historic venue in upstate New York.

Prosecution, who bankrolled $128,735 in 2014, worked a half-mile in :48.40 Tuesday morning.

“He’s been a solid horse,” Cox said. “He’s still eligible for the first level allowance, believe it or not.”

Cox said Flurry’s Little Miss Flurry, turned out following a runner-up finish behind Delta Flower in last March’s $75,000 Rainbow Miss Stakes for 3-year-old Arkansas-bred fillies at Oaklawn, will run at the 2015 meeting.

Cox has 50 horses in training – 34 at Oaklawn and 16 at Fair Grounds. Little Miss Flurry has been training at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

Cox said his Oaklawn stable is heavy on young horses, allowance types and high-priced claimers.

“We want to keep rolling,” Cox said.

Final Lines

Darren Fleming is again overseeing trainer Steve Asmussen’s Oaklawn division. Asmussen is seeking his fourth consecutive Oaklawn training title, and seventh since 2007. Asmussen’s six titles equal the third-highest total in Oaklawn history, trailing only Hall of Famer Henry Forrest (11) and Bob Holthus (9). … Horses for trainer Kenny McPeek, who was born in Fort Chaffee, Ark., are now on the grounds. … Trainer Brad Cox said he plans to use jockeys Shaun Bridgmohan and Jesus Castanon during the 2015 live meeting that begins Jan. 9.