Don't Tell Sophia was among the most impressive runners of the 2013 Oaklawn Park meet in winning both the Pippin and Bayakoa Stakes by widening lengths, and was equally impressive when she repeated the Pippin victory recently. She can complete the double/double as the heavy favorite in the $100,000 Bayakoa Feb. 16.
Nine other older fillies and mares are set to line up in Sunday's running of the 1 1/16 mile race, race 8 on the program at 4:42 p.m CST.
Don't Tell Sophia, a 6-year-old Congaree mare who won last year's Bayakoa by 6 1/2 lengths at odds of 3-2, braved the weather and breezed a bullet half-mile Feb. 12 in :47 3/5.
"She's definitely on track for the Bayakoa," trainer Phil Sims said. "She had a nice maintenance work the other day and trained Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I think she's sitting okay in there."
Don't Tell Sophia is coming off a 1 1/2-length score as the odds-on pick in the Jan. 18 Pippin, also at 1 1/16 miles. The bay mare will be ridden by Channing Hill from the rail with top weight of 122 pounds. They are 6-5 on the morning line.
Trainer Mark Casse will be taking a double shot at the favorite while looking for a little revenge in the Bayakoa, a prep for Oaklawn's Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) April 11.
Casse will start Dixie Strike, who carries the colors of John Oxley, and Sisterly Love, owned by Gary Barber. Sisterly Love tuned up with a bullet three-furlong breeze in :35 2/5 over the Oaklawn strip Feb. 13.
Sisterly Love has been idle since finishing sixth behind Don't Tell Sophia in the Nov. 2 Chilukki Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs.
"She's a nice filly and she won some nice races for us in Toronto," said Casse. "Her last start was at Churchill and she got away bad and she just didn't run a great race so we gave her a bit of a breather and now she's back in action. My only concern with her is that we shipped her out there and then we had all that bad weather so she hasn't gotten in as much work over the track as I would have liked."
As for Dixie Strike, she finished sixth and last against Don't Tell Sophia in the Pippin and never was involved in the race.
"Her last race was a head scratcher," Casse said. "She trained well going into the race, even though she only had one breeze over that track after we brought her from Florida."
Grade III winner Bryan's Jewel, fifth in last year's Apple Blossom, makes her second start at the meet for trainer McLean Roberston. She had a tardy break in a six-furlong allowance heat Jan. 26 and was not a factor while finishing last of seven at odds of 2-1.
The Bayakoa is named for the two-time Eclipse Award-winning older female and winner of the 1989 Apple Blossom.
$100,000 Bayakoa Stakes, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Don't Tell Sophia (KY), C Hill, 122, P A Sims, 6/5
2. Imposing Grace (KY), I Ocampo, 119, W M Catalano, 8/1
3. Dreamin Big (IN), F C Torres, 119, M E Lauer, 20/1
4. Sisterly Love (KY), E R Da Silva, 119, M E Casse, 5/1
5. Dixie Strike (ON), N Arroyo Jr., 119, M E Casse, 12/1
6. Our Domain (IL), C A Emigh, 117, S Becker, 12/1
7. Bryan's Jewel (KY), S B Martinez, 119, M Robertson, 5/1
8. Sister Ginger (KY), R Santana Jr., 119, S M Asmussen, 12/1
9. Fully Living (KY), J L Castanon, 115, G R Arnold II, 12/1
10. Maid On a Mission (KY), L S Quinonez, 115, T R Mills, 30/1