Cathryn Sophia stamped herself as a most exciting prospect in the 3-year-old filly division by capturing her first two career starts by dazzling margins of victory.
Cash is King's filly won both of her starts by a combined 29 lengths, each in handy fashion, but trainer John Servis will saddle the daughter of Street Boss for the $200,000 Forward Gal (gr. II) Jan. 30 with both feet firmly planted on the rubber paver bricks in the Gulfstream Park paddock. The Forward Gal is a qualifying race on the Road to the Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), rewarding the top four finishers with points on a 10-4-2-1 scale.
"I learned a long time ago not to get too excited, especially after just a couple races. So much can go wrong in this business when you're trying to get everything to go right," Servis said. "Her last race was an impressive race. Her first race—I don't think she beat a whole lot. The last race was more of an impressive effort for short."
While Servis will let Cathryn Sophia show him how good she is, the Maryland-bred filly has certainly demonstrated huge potential right from the start of her racing career, when she captured her six-furlong debut by 12 3/4 front-running lengths at Parx Racing Oct. 30.
"It took a lot of time to get her there. She kept coming up with little bumps and bruises. We kept finding little things to back off for," Servis said. "The fact that everybody was so patient with her has really been a blessing. Once we got to be able to get her training on a regular basis, we started to really see some talent. First time she ran, I expected her to run well."
Cathryn Sophia came right back to notch a front-running victory in the seven-furlong $100,000 Gin Talking Stakes at Laurel Park by 16 1/4 lengths Dec. 5.
"I felt very confident going into that race. She had trained really, really well going into that race," Servis said. "There were some horses that had showed some talent in there. You didn't know how good they were. The horse (Look Who's Talking) that was fifth came back to win her next start (the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship)."
Servis nominated Cathryn Sophia for the six-furlong Old Hat (gr. III) at Gulfstream Jan. 2, but opted to wait for the Forward Gal.
"I really didn't want to shorten her up to six furlongs off the seven-eighths race. I wanted to go in the other direction. The fact that Gulfstream had the Forward Gal at seven-eighths and the Davona Dale (Feb. 27) at a mile (was ideal), to gradually get her up to a two-turn race," said Servis, who enjoyed career highlights while saddling Smarty Jones for victories in the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes (both grade I).
Servis is cautiously optimistic that Cathryn Sophia will stretch out successfully.
"I think she'll handle a mile. As far as two turns, I don't really know. She has such brilliant speed, you wonder just how far she can carry that. But she settles so nice, she'll probably carry it a long way," Servis said. "We're going to see. We're going to inch up with each race and she how she handles it."
Joel Rosario is scheduled to ride Cathryn Sophia for the first time in the Forward Gal, which drew a field of seven sophomore fillies.
Jacks or Better Farm's Ballet Diva, who finished a game third in the Old Hat, is slated to return in the Forward Gal. The multiple stakes-winning filly broke a bit slowly from the rail post position and was checked in traffic along the backstretch before she put in a late run in the Old Hat.
"There were a couple of factors—each one cost her lengths," trainer Stanley Gold said. "She didn't come out of that good and when she was trying to come up on the inside, a horse came in and the rail closed. Now, she had to back up. She had never gotten dirt in her face. It spooked her a little bit. When he got her to the outside, she kept trying. She's got a real good attitude. She is competitive."
Jose Caraballo, who rode the daughter of Hear No Evil to front-running stakes victories in the Cassidy, Florida Sire Stakes Susan's Girl, and House Party, is slated to ride.
Siena Farm's Island Saint is set to seek her first stakes score in the Forward Gal after posting a front-running 5 1/4-length victory in an allowance/optional claiming race at Gulfstream Dec. 11. The daughter of Speightstown previously finished third in the Sorority at Monmouth Park and fifth in the Matron (gr. II) at Belmont Park.
"I thought she got back on track in her allowance win here," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "I think she's kind of a free-running filly we made a mistake with trying to hold her up in a couple of her starts. I think she just wants to be let run freely early on, which we plan on doing."
John Velazquez has the mount.
Conquest Stables' Conquest Babayaga is scheduled to make her first start on dirt for trainer Mark Casse in the Forward Gal. The daughter of Uncle Mo has raced twice on Woodbine's Polytrack surface, where she broke her maiden at first asking by 6 3/4 lengths and finished second behind Ami's Mesa in the Glorious Song Stakes.
"She's doing well. This will be her first try on dirt, but the Uncle Mos have been doing very well on dirt," Casse said. "That was a nice filly (Ami's Mesa) and it was a really good race. The Forward Gal is not going to be an easy race. Mike Smith's going to ride her."
Gulfstream Park, Saturday, January 30, 2016, Race 3
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Dad's Kiddo (KY) Tyler Gaffalione 116 Dane Kobiskie 15/1 2 2Cathryn Sophia (MD) Joel Rosario 120 John C. Servis 6/5 3 3Conquest Babayaga (KY) Mike E. Smith 116 Mark E. Casse 7/2 4 4Island Saint (KY) John R. Velazquez 116 Todd A. Pletcher 3/1 5 5Ballet Diva (FL) Jose C. Caraballo 120 Stanley I. Gold 15/1 6 6Rontos Lily (FL) Emisael Jaramillo 116 Enrique A. Sanchez 30/1 7 7Disco Rose (PA) Rafael Manuel Hernandez 116 Robert E. Reid, Jr. 8/1
Gulfstream Park, Saturday, January 30, 2016, Race 3