Trainer John Servis has a plan.
It's not one he is willing to share publicly, or even one he is certain will be successful. But when trying to conquer a force that has yet to be seriously challenged—much less beaten—simply winging it once the starting gate opens does not qualify as suitable preparation.
"I can't give away my strategy," Servis coyly responded when asked what instruction he will give jockey Javier Castellano in their attempt to thwart the beautiful force that is champion filly Songbird.
Part of what Servis is counting on headed into in the $1 million Cotillion Stakes (gr. I) Sept. 24 at Parx Racing is the fact Songbird has yet to hook a rival who offers what his Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I)-winning charge, Cathryn Sophia, brings to the table.
While Songbird has systematically dispatched divisional challengers en route to being undefeated in ten career starts, Cash is King's Cathryn Sophia looms as a new threat who could throw a previously unseen wrinkle at the bay daughter of Medaglia d'Oro.
In addition to owning two wins over the Parx surface, including her 6 1/2-length win in the Princess of Sylmar Stakes on Sept. 3, Maryland-bred Cathryn Sophia has flaunted her own fearsome level of tactical brilliance, earning her six career victories by a combined winning margin of 50 3/4 lengths.
"I wonder if (Songbird) has hooked into a filly as good as mine," Servis said. "And that's not to take anything away from any of the other fillies by any means, or (Songbird). She's obviously super talented, she's a champion. And I don't know if my filly is good enough to beat her.
"But she came into her last race (at Parx) really well and I couldn't have written the script any better. She didn't have to put out too much of an effort to get the win and I think it will set her up good for this race coming up."
When Cathryn Sophia finished third in the Ashland Stakes, her first try around two turns, Servis initially expressed concern that the temperamental filly had distance limitations. The daughter of Street Boss erased that worry when she hit the wire 2 3/4-lengths in front in the 1 1/8-miles Kentucky Oaks after getting a perfect stalk-and-pounce trip.
Before Songbird was declared out of the Kentucky Oaks due to illness, Servis stated his intentions to send Cathryn Sophia to the seven-furlong Eight Belles Stakes (gr. II) on the Oaks undercard. Where Songbird's absence opened a door of opportunity for Cathryn Sophia on the first Friday in May, their scheduled meeting in the Cotillion is one Servis feels his filly is now better equipped handle.
"We freshened her up (after the Acorn) and she needed that," Servis said. "It should be very interesting this Saturday."