Don't Tell Sophia rallied from last in the field of 10 fillies and mares to sail past 5-2 favorite Wine Princess en route to a 2 1/4-length victory in the $165,200 Chilukki Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO) at Churchill Downs Nov. 2.
A 5-year-old daughter of Congaree out of the Valid Expectations mare Lost Expectations, Don't Tell Sophia ran the one-turn mile, which was rated fast, in 1:35.14. It was the fastest clocking of the race since Halory Leigh was timed in 1:35.05 in 2004.
Joe Rocco Jr. rode the winner for trainer Philip Simms, who co-owns the Kentucky-bred mare with Jerry Namy.
"She has that one good kick," said Simms. "We were concerned about the mile being a little short for us, but, of course, it worked out, thank goodness.
"We kind of used this as a stepping stone to the Falls City Handicap (gr. II, Nov. 28). We were a little concerned about the one-turn mile, but last year she won a 6 1/2-furlong sprint here. She's got that one big run and it doesn't matter how far the distance is."
Devious Intent, Magic Hour, and Cho Cho Cat battled for the early lead with the first quarter mile run in :22.88. Wine Princess rated just off the leaders from the outside, and Don't Tell Sophia trailed the field by as many as 8 1/4 lengths.
After a half mile in :45.65, Wine Princess made her move on the turn and grabbed the lead at the head of the stretch, but Don't Tell Sophia was rapidly picking off rivals one by one. She was angled out seven-wide entering the stretch and kicked on gamely for the triumph.
"I had a lot of horse throughout," said Rocco Jr. "I was a little concerned at how far back I was early, because I didn't want to be that far back. But she kind of gets slow going out of the gate and it takes her a while. But they were flying up front and they were all stacked up out in the middle of the racetrack, so I just tried to save as much ground as I could without committing to the inside fully. Man, I had a lot of horse; when I peeled her out, she took off."
It was the seventh win in 16 career starts for Don't Tell Sophia and her first graded stakes win. Earlier this year at Oaklawn Park, she won the ungraded Pippin and Bayakoa stakes and was third behind On Fire Baby and Tiz Miz Sue in the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I).
She entered the Chilukki after a runner-up effort behind Magic Hour in the Mari Hulman George Stakes at Indiana Downs Oct. 5.
Don't Tell Sophia, the 9-2 third betting choice, paid $11.20, $5.20, and $4. Wine Princess, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, returned $4 and $2.80. Awesome Flower, a 33-1 outsider with Channing Hill in the saddle, was another four lengths back in third and paid $10.60.
The $97,303 first prize increased Don't Tell Sophia's career earnings to $440,814.
The Chilukki is named in honor of the Bob Baffert-trained filly who won this event at age 3 in 2000 while setting a track record (1:33.57).