After suffering her first loss in the Central Bank Ashland Stakes a month ago, Cathryn Sophia bounced back in a big way with a powerful victory in the Longines Kentucky Oaks in front of a record Oaks Day crowd of 124,589 Friday at Churchill Downs.
John Servis, who trains the Maryland-bred Street Boss filly for Cash Is King Stable, initially thought the two-turn trip was too far for Cathryn Sophia after she lost the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland. Plenty changed over the course of a month in Servis’ mind and in Cathryn Sophia herself.
Servis talked with Cash Is King’s owner Chuck Zacney following the Ashland and decided it may be best to run Cathryn Sophia in the 7-furlong Eight Belles Stakes on the Oaks Day undercard. But Servis and Zacney changed their mind, perhaps encouraged by defection of the expected Oaks-favorite Songbird after she suffered a fever. Cathryn Sophia’s training also convinced the men, specifically a strong 5-furlong breeze April 23 at Keeneland.
“I guess it came down to that work, really,” Servis said. “With Songbird being out, Chuck and I talked about it. And we went back and watched the Ashland. I can’t even tell you how many times, a lot. And we started to lean a little bit toward the Oaks. And then we talked. And I said, let’s – she’s going to work on Saturday. Let’s see how she works, and we’ll make a decision afterwards. And the way she worked, it was kind of a no-brainer after that.”
With a near-perfect ride from jockey Javier Castellano, Cathryn Sophia sat off the pace early and made an impressive move in the stretch and drew clear as the roaring crowd cheered her home. She won by 2 3/4 lengths from Fair Grounds Oaks winner Land Over Sea with Lewis Bay a neck back in third and favored Rachel’s Valentina sixth.
Castellano was another who was unfazed by the filly’s loss in the Ashland.
“I wasn’t discouraged at all,” Castellano said. “Obviously you’re a little disappointed when you lose any race. A couple things ran through my mind, like maybe she didn’t want to go that far, but we really didn’t know. She’s a young horse who is still developing. The Ashland was just the first time she went two turns and she still finished third so it could have been worse.”
Castellano confirmed that Songbird’s defection played some sort of role in the decision to run the in the Oaks.
“After Songbird was out, John told me to stick with him and that we could still get this done in the Oaks,” Castellano said. “I have a lot of confidence in him. He is a great horseman and he knows what he’s doing.”
Another change that occurred in between the Ashland and Oaks for Cathryn Sophia was a new minority ownership partner as Taylor Made Farm and a group of their clients purchased an undisclosed percentage of the filly.
“We ended up buying a minority interest in her after the Ashland,” Mark Taylor of Taylor Made said. “We had talked to Chuck about buying in before the Ashland but there wasn’t enough time logistically to get everything done.”
Taylor said he didn’t read too far into Cathryn Sophia’s Ashland performance.
“In our mind, the Ashland really didn’t take any luster off of her,” Taylor said. “First time going two turns and just the way that race set up … we just had confidence that she could bounce back. We originally thought maybe she would just go to the Eight Belles and then the Acorn, but then with the defection of Songbird we decided to take a shot in the Oaks. We were just happy to be along for the ride. We had a lot of faith in John Servis and Cash Is King.”
Taylor Made President Duncan Taylor elaborated a bit more on the new investors.
“It’s a group of long time clients and one brand new client,” Duncan Taylor said. “Some of them are local some are from all over … one guy was actually our tractor dealer for a while. But we have people that are watching races all the time and know what’s going on, so I have to give credit to them. My brother Mark and Leif Aaron both were working it and got in touch with John Servis to make it happen.”
As for the future, Servis didn’t rule out more starts going long for Cathryn Sophia.
“It’s too early to say,” Servis said. “We got to see how she came out of the race. And like I said earlier, this opened up a whole new book now with us for her stretching out to the mile and a eighth and handling it the way she did. And it’s something we’ll certainly talk about for sure.”