One day before champion Royal Delta makes her 2013 debut in the Sabin Stakes (gr. III), a rival who gave her a run for her money returns to the races in the $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes Feb. 16 at Oaklawn Park.
CresRan racing's Tiz Miz Sue, who loomed boldly coming down the stretch in the 2012 Delaware Handicap (gr. II), just missed taking down Royal Delta by a neck at odds of 28-1. The now 6-year-old homebred daughter of Tiznow is entered for the first time since the Oct. 7 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (gr. I) over Keeneland Polytrack, a race in which she finished fifth after running fourth in the Personal Ensign Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course.
Last year, trainer Steve Hobby used a runner-up finish in the Bayaoka to prime Tiz Miz Sue for a victory in the March 17 Azeri Stakes (gr. III), her steppingstone to a third-place finish in the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I). It is a route he will follow again this season, with jockey Joe Rocco Jr. named to ride his contender from post 4 under a 117-pound impost. Tiz Miz Sue raced in blinkers last time out but gets them removed for this race. Prepping for the Bayakoa, she turned in a solid work pattern capped Feb. 9 by a five-furlong move in 1:01 2/5.
"We're definitely excited with the way she's been training so well," said Hobby, who is sitting on 998 victories going into the Feb. 15 card. "I'm anxious to see how she's going to do. It feels good. I'm glad they gave us the opportunity to try her again. We've matched her up pretty tough her whole life. She's tried to rise to the occasion as much as she could.
"I don't think we would try taking on Royal Delta again," the trainer continued. "Getting weight helps, but Royal Delta still rose to the occasion in the Delaware Handicap. I guess if we could get that far and were to make it to the Breeders' Cup, then maybe, but that's a ways away to think about right now. The big goal this year is to try and get the grade I."
High-weighted at 119 in the field of seven for the 1 1/16-mile Bayakoa, slated to be run at approximately 5:09 p.m. CST, is Phil Sims and Jerry Namy's Don't Tell Sophia. The 5-year-old daughter of Congaree won this year's edition of the Pippin by 7 1/4 lengths Jan. 19, claiming her first stakes victory with a strong four-wide closing move. She is trained by Sims and will be ridden from the one hole by jockey Robby Albarado.
Also rolling out of the Pippin are Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch's 4-year-old Minesave, who was third for trainer Bret Calhoun, Cheyenne Stables' 5-year-old Itsabeautifulthing (fourth) for Donnie K. Von Hemel, and Ten Broeck Farm's Bahama Bound (sixth), trained by Grant Forster.
One contender of interest is Robert Zoellner's homebred She's All In, three-time winner of the Oklahoma Classics Distaff Stakes. The 6-year-old Include mare finished fourth, 10 lengths behind Joyful Victory, in the Jan. 26 Houston Ladies Classic Stakes in her first start since taking a third consecutive edition of the Oklahoma Classic Distaff in October. Von Hemel trains the seasoned contender, who last year finished third in the Pippin, third in the Bayakoa, and second in the Azeri before going on to win the Sixty Sails Handicap (gr. III) at Hawthorne; she placed in the Pippin and ran fourth in the Azeri in 2011.
Frank Mancari and Pat Greco's allowance winner One Last Dance completes the field from the barn of Dale Romans. The 5-year-old daughter of Officer hasn't won in just over a year, when she took a one-mile optional claimer by a nose on the inner track at Aqueduct Racetrack. One Last Dance is cross-entered in the Feb. 17 Sabin at Gulfstream Park.
$100,000 Bayakoa Stakes (Race 9, approximate post 5:09 p.m. CST), fillies & mares 4YOs & Up, 1 1/16 miles (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Don't Tell Sophia (KY), R. Albarado, 119, P A Sims
2. Minesave (KY), A. Birzer, 115, W B Calhoun
3. Itsabeautifulthing (KY), V. Lebron, 115, D K Von Hemel
4. Tiz Miz Sue (KY), J. Rocco, Jr., 117, S Hobby
5. One Last Dance (KY), R.B. Homeister Jr., 117, D L Romans
6. Bahama Bound (KY), E.T. Baird, 115, G T Forster
7. She's All In (OK), L.S. Quinonez, 117, D K Von Hemel