Oaklawn Barn Notes - Jan. 16

Jan. 16, 2014

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Don’t Tell Sophia Looks for Pippin Repeat

Phil Sims and Jerry Namy’s Don’t Tell Sophia hopes to once again establish herself as one of Oaklawn’s leading older females when she goes for the repeat in Saturday’s $100,000 Pippin Stakes. The 6-year-old Congaree mare, who will face only five rivals, also won Oaklawn’s Bayakoa Stakes last year, was second in the Grade 3 Azeri Stakes and finished third in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap.

Don’t Tell Sophia was given the summer and returned last October to post a second in the $100,000 Mari Hulman George Stakes at Indiana Downs. One start later she captured her first graded stakes victory in the Chilukki Stakes (G2) and closed out 2013 with a second in Falls City Handicap (G2), both at Churchill Downs. Since returning to Hot Springs she has posted two solid workouts over the track, including a bullet half mile in 49 3/5 Jan. 11. Jockey Channing Hill gets the mount for the first time.

“She absolutely loves the surface here,” said Sims. “The bullet work over the weekend was perfect for her; she did it all on her own.  She’s such a classy filly and just so much fun to be around.”

John Oxley’s millionaire mare Dixie Strike could vie for favoritism with Don’t Tell Sophia. The 5-year-old Dixie Union mare, trained by Mark Casse, most recently finished second in the Grade 3 Maple Leaf Stakes at Woodbine Nov. 2 to close out a modest 2013, but could be tough to beat, especially if she runs back to her 2012 form. That year, she competed against the colts in all three legs of Canada’s Triple Crown and won the Prince of Wales Stakes and was third in the Queens Plate. Regular rider Eurico Da Silva, riding at Oaklawn for the first time this season, has the call Saturday.

Millennium Farms’ Sister Ginger has also shown a fondness for Oaklawn, winning last year’s $75,000 Martha Washington Stakes. She won three straight races last summer, including the Indiana Grand Stakes and most recently finished fourth in the $300,000 Zia Park Oaks. The 2013 leading jockey Ricardo San-tana Jr. and trainer Steve Asmussen team up with the 4-year-old Student Council filly.

The Pippin Stakes also drew Remington Park Oaks winner Sticks Wondergirl, stakes placed Fully Living, and impressive allowance winner Custody.

The complete Pippin field, in post-position order, with riders and morning line odds: Sister Ginger, Ricardo Santana Jr., 6-1; Sticks Wondergirl, Jon Court, 8-1; Don’t Tell Sophia, Channing Hill, 4-5; Custody, Luis Quinonez, 6-1; Fully Living, Jesus Castanon, 12-1, and Dixie Strike, Eurico Da Silva, 7-2.  

Casse’s Runners Ready for Stakes Action

Trainer Mark Casse has a division at Oaklawn for the first time this year and he could celebrate a big holiday weekend with Dixie Strike and Coastline, both of whom carry the blue and gold silks of owner John Oxley.

Dixie Strike, who competed against the boys in all three legs of the 2012 Canadian Triple Crown with a third in the Queen’s Plate and a victory in the Prince of Wales Stakes, will run in the Pippin Stakes Saturday and Street Sense Stakes winner Coastline will contest the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds on Monday.

“Dixie Strike is doing really well, but Don’t Tell Sophia is going to be awfully tough,” Casse said. “Our filly has trained well on the dirt at Palm Meadows and when we breezed her at Oaklawn and she did really well. We think she likes the dirt even though she’s only run twice on it. She won the Prince of Wales on it and the horse she beat, Ultimate Destiny, ended up being a very good horse.”

The 5yo daughter of Dixie Union out of the Smart Strike mare Noble Strike worked over the Oaklawn strip on Jan. 12 when she traveled 5f in 1.03.80 for the 11th fastest work of 103 horses at the distance. The move sets her ups as a strong challenger to Don’t Tell Sophia as the Phil Sims-trainee tries to defend her title in the Pippin.

“I would expect a big effort from her,” said Casse of Dixie Strike, who was third in the Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes behind Eclipse Award winners My Miss Aurelia and Questing as a sophomore.

The Smarty Jones, which is named for the colt who captured all three legs of Oaklawn’s renowned series for sophomores- the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes, the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes and the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby- on the way to victories in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes in 2004, is the first true test for 3-year-olds at the meet.

The one-mile affair also serves as a prep for the Southwest to be contested at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 17 and Casse hopes that Coastline will get better racing luck than he did last time out when he stumbled out of the gate in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs on Nov. 23.

“He lost all chances that day but if you go to his previous race (the Street Sense at Churchill Downs on Oct. 27), it was a great race. The second, third and fourth finishers came back to win their next starts and he beat them pretty convincingly,” Casse said. “We gave him just a little bit of a break and then we sent him to Palm Meadows and he breezed a couple of time there. He’s been at Oaklawn now for about 10 days and he worked really well the other day under Eurico (Rosa Da Silva).

Regular ride Shaun Bridgmohan will be back in the irons on Monday.

Fully Living Up to Task in Deep Pippin

Fully Living, a daughter of Unbridled’s Song who is loaded with back class, looks to get her 4-year-old campaign off to a strong start by notching her first stakes win when she steps into the starting gate for the Pippin.
The race will be her first since a disappointing 10th place finish in the $100,000 Safely Kept Stakes at Laurel Park November 9, and trainer Rusty Arnold is encouraged by the way she’s taken to the Oaklawn strip in the mornings.

“Her second work (a 4f breeze in 51.60 on Jan. 12) was much better than her first work (4f breezing in 49.00on December 31, Arnold said. “Jack (Bohannon, his Oaklawn-based assistant) said she got a little tired. I think the track has been a little bit slower and he said in her second work she went very well and felt good. We’ve been pointing for this race for about a month and a half, so we think we’re getting her there in good shape.”

Fully Living, who is out of the Pulpit mare Half A.P., was purchased by Spendthrift Farm for $425,000 at the Keeneland Select Yearling sale in 2011 and sent to trainer Kenny McPeek. Her first start was a fourth place finish behind So Many Ways in the Grade 3 Schuylerville at Saratoga, and she stayed at The Spa for her next two tests, a third behind Kauai Katie in the Grade 2 Adirondack and a second to Dreaming of Julia in the Meadow Star.

After six races and at the end of October in her juvenile season, she was sold to Old Oak Farm and Ashview Farm and Arnold took over her training. She made five starts as a 3-year-old last year at five different tracks, with one win and a second, when she closed willingly to miss by a head to Indian Spell in the Miss Woodford at Monmouth on August 31.

“When Kenny had her as a two-year-old, she ran against some of the best fillies there were, and she’s had some good races last year,” said Arnold. “Her last one was her only bad race of the whole year so we backed off of her and regrouped.”

The Pippin will be contested at 1 1/16 miles and Fully Living’s last six races have been sprints so Arnold said he hopes the filly will be able to stretch out. She’s certainly bred to get the distance and now it’s up to whether she’ll handle the competition.

“It’s going to be a very tough race; any stakes race is,” said Arnold. “She hasn’t won one yet, so it’s a step up. But, we’ll give ‘em a try and see if we belong there.”