Cathryn Sophia, Servis in good spirits after Oaks win
Cathryn Sophia, the newest member of the Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner's club, poked her head outside her stall at 6 a.m. (EDT) Saturday and turned her gaze to the shedrow doings of Barn 43 at Churchill Downs. Harry Harcourt, her groom, looked at her with pride and said, "There is the queen."
Twenty-four hours earlier, Harcourt, a 52-year-old native of Barbados, fretted that Cathryn Sophia, who has a propensity for getting on the muscle, particularly in her stall, would become worked-up on the walkover to the Oaks and in the paddock.
Harcourt needn't have worried. The filly, who is owned by Chuck Zackney's Cash Is King LLC, behaved and then ran an explosive race in Oaks 142nd, winning by 2 3/4 lengths as the second choice in the field of 14.
"She got excited a little bit (on the walkover) and I just let her hear my voice over the crowd," the soft-spoken Harcourt said. "She knew what was going on and she was looking forward to it. Once we got to the paddock, she relaxed and I wasn't worried anymore. It was all goodness."
Harcourt, who began working for Cathryn Sophia's trainer, John Servis, in February said the filly's Oaks victory "brought tears" to his eyes.
Earlier in the week, Harcourt also had tears in eyes because of Cathryn Sophia after the filly sunk her teeth into his stomach in two places. This is not uncommon behavior for her.
"She bites me up a lot," Harcourt said as he pulled up his shirt to display the damage, which made the visitor wince. "She lets me know when she is going to be aggressive. You know, horses talk to you, and she talks to me a lot."
Harcourt and Cathryn Sophia's exercise rider, Jerry Ortega, were part of a large celebration last night at Buckhead Mountain Grill on Bardstown Road that included Servis and his family and Zackney and his family.
Last night's celebration was a bit more festive than in 2004 when Servis won the Kentucky Derby (G1) with Smarty Jones. That evening he ate pizza in his hotel room. The trainer tried to be more proactive this year in obtaining a reservation beforehand, but struck out with the two places he called earlier in the week.
"We didn't have any place to go," Servis said shortly after his arrival at the barn at 7 a.m. “We were trying to think of a pizza joint, but we wanted to have a couple of cocktails, and we didn't know any pizza places you could go and have a beer, so (Buckhead) was where we went.
“We didn't get there until after nine, and everybody kind of crashed -- yawning and exhausted -- it hit everybody at once." The 57-year-old Servis, who became the 26th trainer in the 142-year history of both the Oaks and the Derby to win both races but the only one to win with one starter in each, was delighted to find out that Cathryn Sophia had a hearty appetite last night.
"I love it when Harry says, 'Boss, I didn't even have to clean the tub, the tub was spotless,'" Servis said. "That's very good, because she has always been a little bit of a picky eater. But since the Ashland (G1), I'm telling you, she hasn't missed one oat."
Servis said Cathryn Sophia would return to his Delaware Park base on Monday. The Acorn (G1) at Belmont Park on June 11 is on the radar, but the trainer isn't wholly committing to anything yet. Now that his filly has proven she is capable of winning beyond a mile, there are more options to consider going forward.
"I don't know...we'll see how she is doing," Servis said. "I'll let her tell me. If she is happy, continues to do as she is or even go forward, then we will probably go to the Acorn. And the reason I say I don't know is that after yesterday that happened to open up a whole lot of avenues. Now I'm starting to think, wow, do I even want to shorten her back up to a one-turn mile after that race. There's a lot to think about."
Trainer Doug O'Neill was asked how his second-place Oaks finisher Land Over Sea was doing the morning after her stellar effort in the $1,000,000 headliner.
"Unbelievable," the conditioner said in his usual ebullient style. "Her legs are ice cold. She cleaned up everything in her tub last night and she looks ready to go again. We're very proud of her. She ran a terrific race."
What might be next for the Bellamy Road filly, who moved her bankroll up to $654,000 after making her ninth start in the nine-furlong Oaks?
"We want to see how things go today," he said. The key factor there is her stablemate, Nyquist, who is the favorite for this afternoon's Kentucky Derby (G1). His efforts in the Run for the Roses could determine whether both horses (each owned by Paul Reddam) could be headed to Maryland, or back to California.
"We might be headed to Baltimore," O'Neill said. "We'll see how it goes."
Trainer Chad Brown reported Kentucky Oaks third-place finisher Lewis Bay exited the race well and would be flown back to New York Monday.
"She's good. She's fine," Brown said. "I don't know what will be next for her. We'll just get back to New York Monday and regroup.
"I was happy with the race. She was a bit eager, but that's just her. She's very competitive. I thought we were in a good position. But, once they turned into the stretch and the winner took off, we were all running for second at that point. It's just a shame that [Lewis Bay] got nailed late for second."
Trainer Todd Pletcher said beaten favorite Rachel's Valentina, who finished sixth, came out of the race "in good order." She's under consideration for the Acorn.