Cathryn Sophia to test Song­bird in Cotil­lion

Daily Racing Form Saturday Stakes Preview - - FRONT PAGE -

By David Gren­ing

BEN­SALEM, Pa. – Trainer John Servis isn’t sure what the long-term fu­ture for Cathryn Sophia holds. He is pretty cer­tain that she will give the un­de­feated Song­bird every­thing she has in Satur­day’s Grade 1, $1 mil­lion Cotil­lion Stakes at Parx Rac­ing.

“I’ve been con­fi­dent in her from the first day she ran,” Servis said Wed­nes­day at Parx. “She’s go­ing to show up, she’s go­ing to bring her game. If she’s good enough – that’s the ques­tion.”

Thus far, no­body has been good enough to beat Song­bird, who has won all 10 of her starts by a com­bined 54 3/4 lengths. That in­cludes six Grade 1 vic­to­ries, most re­cently in the Alabama and Coach­ing Club Amer­i­can Oaks at Saratoga.

While Song­bird is 10 for 10, Cathryn Sophia has won six of her eight races, in­clud­ing the Ken­tucky Oaks, a race Song­bird missed due to ill­ness. Cathryn Sophia’s two losses came in the Grade 1 Ash­land at Keeneland and the Grade 1 Acorn at Bel­mont.

“Ar­guably, her two losses could be put back on me just train­ing her a lit­tle dif­fer­ent go­ing into both those races,” Servis said.

Fol­low­ing the Acorn, Servis gave Cathryn Sophia a sig­nif­i­cant break. Her train­ing picked up at Saratoga, where she had a bril­liant work Aug. 16, four days be­fore Song­bird won the Alabama. Servis re­sisted any temp­ta­tion to run her in a ma­jor stakes at Saratoga and in­stead ran her in the $150,000 Princess of Syl­mar Stakes here, which she won by 6 1/2 lengths in a can­ter.

“Her race was good,” Servis said. “It wasn’t too much; just enough to wheel her right back.”

Al­though Cathryn Sophia is 2 for 2 at Parx and has been sta­bled here for the last month, Servis does not feel she has any home-court ad­van­tage over Song­bird or Ca­rina Mia, who beat Cathryn Sophia in the Acorn.

“I un­der­stand want­ing to get to a place early, let the horse set­tle in, but when I hear peo­ple say, ‘ Oh, yeah, I want to get there early and train over the track,’ well, it’s never the same track they run on,” Servis said.

Servis, who has called Parx his home for decades, said the Cotil­lion has been his ma­jor goal for Cathryn Sophia ever since the Ken­tucky Oaks.

Not­ing that Cathryn Sophia has been a bit of a chal­lenge to train, Servis sug­gested it’s “a very good pos­si­bil­ity” the Cotil­lion could be Cathryn Sophia’s last race.

How­ever, owner Chuck Zac­ney, who has en­tered Cathryn Sophia in the Fasig-tip­ton sale in Novem­ber, said he would like to run her in the Breed­ers’ Cup Distaff if things go well in the Cotil­lion.

Song­bird ar­rived at Parx Rac­ing from South­ern Cal­i­for­nia on Mon­day, and after jog­ging Tues­day, she gal­loped 1 1/2 miles over the track shortly after 6:30 a.m. Wed­nes­day. Track man­age­ment has re­served a 30-minute win­dow for horses en­tered in Satur­day’s four stakes to train, and Cotil­lion en­trants Song­bird and Cathryn Sophia were out at that time.

“She shipped great,” said Christina Jelm, who is over­see­ing Song­bird’s train­ing be­fore trainer Jerry Hol­len­dor­fer’s ar­rival, which was sched­uled for Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon. “She set­tled right in, and the trav­el­ing doesn’t take any­thing out of her.”

Jelm was with Song­bird for the month she spent at Saratoga and said the filly looks the same to her as when she last saw her Aug. 22, the morn­ing she left New York to re­turn to South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

“She’s main­tained every­thing since I last saw her,” Jelm said.

In a ref­er­ence to Hollen- dor­fer’s South­ern Cal­i­for­nia as­sis­tant, she said: “Dan Ward has done a won­der­ful job, and, of course, Jerry, he’s on top of every­thing. I re­ally be­lieve she’s con­tin­u­ing to im­prove.”

Gun Run­ner look­ing fresh

Ken­tucky Derby one-two fin­ish­ers Nyquist and Ex­ag­ger­a­tor were sched­uled to ar­rive at Parx Rac­ing on Wed­nes­day for Satur­day’s Grade 2, $1.25 mil­lion Penn­syl­va­nia Derby. Ken­tucky Derby third-place fin­isher Gun Run­ner beat them here by a day, van­ning down from Saratoga on Tues­day.

On Wed­nes­day, Gun Run­ner gal­loped a mile over the Parx sur­face.

“His en­ergy level is great, he’s bright,” said Scott Blasi, as­sis­tant to trainer Steve As­mussen. “We’re re­ally happy with the con­di­tion­ing he’s main­tained through­out the year.”

Fol­low­ing the Ken­tucky Derby, Gun Run­ner won the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs and was train­ing sen­sa­tion­ally at Saratoga lead­ing up to the Haskell In­vi­ta­tional at Mon­mouth. He caught a sloppy track that day and fin­ished fifth, his sec­ond poor race over a wet track. Gun Run­ner then fin­ished third in the Travers, beaten 15 lengths by Ar­ro­gate, who won by 13 1/2 lengths in a track-record time.

“I thought he was less tired after the Travers than after the Derby,” Blasi said. “His re­cov­ery time after the Travers was nor­mal for him. I think he gets the mile and a quar­ter, it’s just that we hooked a freak that day.”

The Penn­syl­va­nia Derby is run at 1 1/8 miles, the dis­tance of Gun Run­ner’s vic­tory in the Louisiana Derby.

Gun Run­ner drew post 7 in the 12-horse field, which Blasi be­lieves will give jockey Florent Ger­oux op­tions with speed horses Awe­some Slew, Sum­mer Revo­lu­tion, and Cupid drawn in­side of him.

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