Cathryn Sophia continued her rise as one of the key contenders on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks with a flawless performance Feb. 27 in the $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park.
Stretching out to a mile for the first time and with jockey Javier Castellano in the irons for injured Joel Rosario, the 3-year-old Street Boss filly rated just off the pace and then kicked into high gear off the final turn. She easily distanced the field down the length of the stretch en route to a seven-length win for a perfect 4-for-4 record with a combined win margin of 41 1/2 lengths.
"She's been very sharp coming into the race," trainer John Servis said. "I was a little concerned maybe a touch too sharp, first time going that far, but like she showed in her last race, she settles so nice.
"I was concerned today about the distance a little bit, and obviously, the way she ran, I feel a whole lot better. She galloped out super. Javier thinks she'll get the two turns, no problem. I feel pretty good now."
"It's crazy. I've had some nice fillies over time, but to have a horse like Smarty Jones and to have a filly like this, it doesn't happen, not for a guy from Parx," Servis said. "It's very exciting. I think she's just now coming into herself. Timing-wise, May might (be her time)."
Sent off the 1-5 favorite in a field of six for the Davona Dale, Cathryn Sophia found a good outside stalking position from post 5 and was forwardly placed behind pacesetters R Girls a Charmer and Dearest.
The quarter went in :24.05 and the half in :47.12 as Cathryn Sophia maintained her position. As the field turned for home through three-quarters in 1:11.88, Castellano gave the signal to go and his mount responded to blitz clear of the competition. She drew away through seven-eighths in 1:24.26 and completed the mile in 1:36.61 on a fast track.
"I really liked the way she did it," Castellano said. "It was really impressive. It was the first time I rode her. She did it really easy. I liked the way she started the first quarter mile. She was never rank or anything like that. I covered up behind horses, and when I asked her she took off. I can put her in the best, top-quality horses in the country, the way she did it."
The Davona Dale awards points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the top four finishers toward a place in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) starting gate, so Cathryn Sophia moved up to rank first on the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard with 60 points. Second is Twinspires.com Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr. II) winner Venus Valentine (50 points), while champion Songbird ranks third with 40.
"When you get into those two-turn races, you have to have that kind of horse, almost push-button where they can turn it on and turn it off and when you call on them they have something there," Servis said. "Today, I think was probably, to me, her most impressive race... It was only her fourth start. I think there's a lot more there. She's showed me a little more every time. Today, she was push-button."
Cathryn Sophia returned $2.40, $2.10, and $2.10. Lewis Bay, returning from a layoff in her first start since winning the Nov. 28 Demoiselle Stakes (gr. II), closed to get second for a $2.80 and $2.20 payoff. Dearest held third and R Girls a Charmer was fourth. Bagema and Rontos Lily completed the order of finish. Thrilled was scratched.
The win pushed Cathryn Sophia's total earnings to $335,520. Bred in Maryland by Robert T. Manfuso out of the Mineshaft mare Sheave, she was a $30,000 purchase from the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale when obtained by Cash is King owner Chuck Zacney from the Chanceland Farm consignment.
Cathryn Sophia will next target the April 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II), a 1 1/16-mile contest at the South Florida oval.
"The pool got a little deeper with talent and she showed her ability today," Zacney said. "Talking to Javier after the race he said he had complete control and when he asked her she took off. Very impressive again. We love Florida and five weeks from now is the (Gulfstream Park) Oaks. That will be her next for her."