Sixth in her first start for trainer Jim Cassidy in the April 7 Royal Heroine Stakes (G2T), after four wins in Europe from 19 starts, the Bushranger mare found just enough in the stretch to get her nose in front of the fast-closing Madam Dancealot at the wire Saturday at Santa Anita Park.
With jockey Kent Desormeaux aboard for the first time, Sophie P made her move in the final turn of the 1 1/8-mile grass test, just got by pacesetter Madame Stripes in the final strides, and held by the slightest of margins as Madam Dancealot closed on the rail.
"Once she had clear sailing, she really took off," Desormeaux said of the 14-1 longshot. "She had to fight to catch the leader and was very fortunate to beat the horse that she couldn't see. The photo finish describes it completely. My horse was completely stretched out, and the (other) horse is completely coiled up, so it was a very fortunate win."
Heavy favorite Hawksmoor nearly went to her belly as she left the gate, found herself in an unfamiliar position far back early, pulled herself into contention in the backstretch, and flattened in the lane to finish fifth.
"She stumbled really bad," said Hawksmoor's jockey, Julien Leparoux, who guided the Azamour mare to two graded wins and two grade 1 placings in 2017. "She was standing fine. ... Maybe it's starting on the dirt (main track), I don't know. After that, she was never comfortable. She was pulling too much and not relaxing at all. It's the kind of race that we need to erase and go to the next one."
Madame Stripes took command early, with Midnight Crossing to her inside, and ran the first quarter in :23.92. But after a half in :47.24, she opened up a three-length lead. That advantage was down to a half-length through six furlongs in 1:11.45 as Midnight Crossing came to challenge again, but the Argentine-bred shrugged it off and kicked away again by 1 1/2 lengths with a furlong to run under jockey Rafael Bejarano.
Sophie P and Madam Dancealot found their best stride late to just pass the frontrunner, however, and the connections of each had to sweat out a significant delay as the photo was inspected. Madame Stripes finished just a neck back in third and was followed by Beau Recall, Hawksmoor, Midnight Crossing, and Mopotism to complete the order of finish.
"I really wasn't sure if we got the bob, but if I had to bet on it, I would have said no," Cassidy said. "If they put up a dead heat, I would not have been surprised."
"I thought I won my first grade 1 for these guys—so close," said Madam Dancealot's jockey, Corey Nakatani. "What a nice filly. She ran great."
Bred in Scotland by New Hall Stud out of the Giant's Causeway mare Fountains Abbey, Sophie P has a 5-5-1 record from 21 starts and earnings of $256,570.
"We wanted to run in an allowance race before we took a shot at this grade 1, but the race didn't go, so we decided to go ahead and take a shot here," said Deron Pearson, who owns DP Racing. "When they hit the wire, I thought we won, but when I got down here and started watching the replays, you don't know where the wire is."