Unassuming Cathryn Sophia a Rising Star That Almost Got Away

Racing

Cathryn Sophia ran away from her opponents in the Grade 2 Forward Gal Stakes on Jan. 30 at Gulfstream Park. (Photo by Bob Coglianese/Gulfstream Park)

By Tom Pedulla, America’s Best Racing

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. – Cathryn Sophia is a potential superstar that almost got away.

Although she enters the $200,000, Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Davona Dale Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream Park having dominated her first three starts by a combined margin of 34 ½ lengths, her abundant ability was not readily apparent. Chuck Zacney purchased the Maryland-bred daughter of Street Boss for $30,000 as a yearling at a September sale in Timonium, Md., in 2014 with modest aspirations.

She lacked size and still does.

“She’s a very unassuming horse. She’s not going to win a beauty contest,” said her trainer, John Servis, during an interview at Palm Meadows Training Center. “You’re not going to look at her and say, ‘That’s a great filly there.’ ”

Shin issues slowed her development last year. Even as she put those behind her, she showed little in her morning gallops at Parx racing, her home track.

As her debut finally neared, a somewhat discouraged Zacney, best known for heading the Cash Is King partnership that owned 2005 Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex, spotted a claiming race that would have made Cathryn Sophia available for $40,000. Based on the lukewarm reports he had been receiving from Servis, that seemed reasonable.

“You don’t want to run in a maiden special weight and lose by 20 lengths. That doesn’t do anybody any good,” Zacney said. “You always want your horse to be competitive.”

Servis suspected that there might be more to Cathryn Sophia than met the eye. He persuaded Zacney not to run in a claimer. He recalls telling him, “She’s a little better than that.”

Zacney, still skeptical, asked Servis if he should make his way to Parx for the debut, in a maiden special weight race, of the filly that is named after his niece, Cathryn.

“I think you should,” Servis recalled telling him. “She’s not going to embarrass you by any means.”

Cathryn Sophia made Zacney’s visit to Parx worthwhile, rolling by 12 ¾ lengths, at the end of October. She was given a stiffer test in the Gin Talking Stakes at Laurel Park on Dec. 5. She led every step of the way in a 16 ¼-length laugher.

Her third start, in the seven-eighths of a mile, Grade 2 Forward Gal Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 30, did not at all unfold the way the first two had. A poor break from the starting gate forced her to catch dirt behind rivals for the first time. That made her 5 ½-length victory all the more impressive when she rallied from off the pace with an overwhelming burst for her jockey, Joel Rosario.

2016 FORWARD GAL STAKES

Courtesy of Gulfstream Park

Cathryn Sopia will take another step in determining how good she can be when she advances to one mile for the first time in the Davona Dale, part of a stakes-loaded undercard for the Grade 2 Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth Stakes.

With Rosario injured, Servis found an outstanding replacement for him in Javier Castellano. The trainer does not expect the mile to pose a problem.

“It’s one turn,” Servis said. “Until we get to two turns, I’m really not going to know.”

Although Servis, who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2004 with Smarty Jones, would welcome the opportunity to reach the Kentucky Oaks with Cathryn Sophia, he said that target is “not etched in stone.” He acknowledged that increasing distance is a major concern.

“I don’t know how far she’ll carry that speed. She’s certainly not a classic two-turn horse,” he said. “That’s always going to be a question. When is it going to be too far?”

Photo by Lauren King/Gulfstream Park

$200,000 Fasig-Tipton Davona Dale Stakes
Saturday, Gulfstream Park, Race 5, 1:56 p.m. ET
One mile, 3-year-old fillies, dirt

PP

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

Owner

Odds

1

Thrilled

John Velazquez

Todd Pletcher

Michael B. Tabor

6-1

2

Dearest

Edgard Zayas

Gilberto Zerpa

Gelfenstein Farm

5-1

3

Bagema

John Cruz

Mikhail Yanakov

Olympia Star

30-1

4

Lewis Bay

Irad Ortiz Jr.

Chad Brown

Alpha Delta Stable

4-1

5

Cathryn Sophia

Javier Castellano

John Servis

Cash is King

6-5

6

R Girls a Charmer

Luis Saez

Mark Casse

Gary Barber

9-2

7

Rontos Lily

Emisael Jaramillo

Enrique Sanchez

Rontos Racing Stable Corp.

30-1

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