Cathryn Sophia to test Songbird in Cotillion
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.