BAYAKOA STAKES | PURSE: $100,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS AND UP | FILLIES AND MARES | 1 1/16-MILES
Don't Tell Sophia proved to still be going strong when opening her six-year-old campaign on January 18 with a 1 ½-length repeat victory in the Pippin at Oaklawn Park. On Sunday, the bay mare emphasized her class and talent yet again by defending her title in the $100,000 Bayakoa over the Hot Spring, Arkansas, venue's fast main track.
Breaking last of all and running in the rear early as Sisterly Love set fractions of :23 seconds, :46 &frac35 seconds; and 1:12 ⅖, Don't Tell Sophia rallied wide around the turn to easily take command entering the stretch. From there, the daughter of Congaree opened up on the field before gearing down to be three lengths clear on the finish line. She clocked 1 1/16 miles in 1:44 ⅗ under jockey Channing Hill.
Sent off the prohibitive 2-5 favorite, Don't Tell Sophia paid $2.80 for the win. Next up will likely be the Grade 3, $200,000 Azeri on March 15 as a final prep for the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap on April 11. Last year Don't Tell Sophia finished second in the Azeri and a nice third in the Apple Blossom.
Canadian classic winner Dixie Strike rallied to take second by a length over Sister Ginger. Those two were sixth and third, respectively, behind Don't Tell Sophia in the Pippin last out in their season opener. Dreamin Big took fourth another 4 ¼ lengths back while Our Domain, Sisterly Love, Imposing Grace, Bryan's Jewel, Maid on a Mission and Fully Living completed the order under wire.
Don't Tell Sophia, campaigned by trainer Phil Sims and Jerry Namy, is now 19-9-4-2 in her career having banked $592,882 lifetime. She began her career racing over synthetic and turf tracks as a juvenile and sophomore, but it wasn't until Sims switched her permanently to the dirt that the Kentucky-bred began showing promise.
Don't Tell Sophia dominated her first dirt try in 2011 at Hoosier Downs by 8 3/4 lengths, but wouldn't visit the conventional surface again until capturing an allowance sprint at Churchill Downs by 3 ½ lengths in November 2012. She went on to open last season with a 7 ¼-length score in the Pippin and a 6 ½-length romp in the Bayakoa, then was given the summer off following her Azeri and Apple Blossom efforts.
Don't Tell Sophia reappeared in October at Indiana Downs and preceded to run a half-length second in that track's Mari Hulman George Stakes, capture her first graded credit in Churchill's Chilukki and close out the year with a nice second in the Falls City Handicap under the Twin Spires.
With Sunday's Bayakoa, she is now 7-3-1 from 11 starts on dirt.
Bred by Stonerside Stable, Don't Tell Sophia was a bargain at the 2009 Keeneland September Yearling Sale when snatched up by Sims for only $1,000. She is out of the Grade 2-placed Valid Expectations mare Lost Expectations, making her a half-sister to multiple Grade 3-placed stakes queen Summer Song.
Lost Expectations is herself a half-sibling to Grade 2-placed stakes winner Lost Appeal, and this female family is also responsible for Grade 2-placed stakes victor Knight of Armor as well as stakes scorers Heartleaf and Saints Leader.