01/06/2015 1:09PM

2014 Eclipse Awards: Don't Tell Sophia

Coady Photography/Keeneland

At a time in her life when many racemares have been retired to become broodmares, Don’t Tell Sophia is getting better with age. A 6-year-old in 2014, she produced her best campaign yet.

Don’t Tell Sophia, sired by Congaree, won four races, including the Grade 1 Spinster, finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, earned $909,597, and is an Eclipse Award finalist as outstanding older female.

She is not done yet. Trainer Phil Sims, who owns Don’t Tell Sophia with Jerry Namy, plans to campaign Don’t Tell Sophia in 2015 at age 7. It will be a challenge to top her 2014 campaign.

Don’t Tell Sophia, purchased for only $1,000 as a yearling, made her 2014 debut in January at Oaklawn Park. Odds-on to win the $100,000 Pippin Stakes, she overcame an awkward start and looped the field to win by 1 1/2 lengths. It was a solid comeback.

The $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes a month later at Oaklawn was another formality. Don’t Tell Sophia strolled to a three-length win at odds-on. The competition got tougher in March in the Grade 2 Azeri, and Don’t Tell Sophia finished third behind Close Hatches.

That was her final start of the spring. Don’t Tell Sophia had popped a quarter crack and ran in a bar shoe in the Azeri. Afterward, Sims decided to give her time and let the foot grow out. She did not return until the fall at Churchill Downs. Reunited with jockey Joe Rocco in the $100,000 Locust Grove in early September, she posted a sharp off-the-pace score.

Still missing from her résumé was a Grade 1. The comeback win set her up for the Spinster Stakes on Oct. 5 at Keeneland. A strong pace benefited Don’t Tell Sophia’s closing style, and she powered from last to win going away by more than two lengths. Don’t Tell Sophia, now a Grade 1 winner, was back and better than ever.

Sims had never started a horse at Santa Anita, and Don’t Tell Sophia had never been on an airplane. But the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in California looked like an achievable goal, and Sims shipped her west.

Things did not look good at the start of the Distaff. Don’t Tell Sophia was forced inward, bumped, and positioned last early. Even though Don’t Tell Sophia is a stretch runner who was expected to be far off the pace, the poor start was an extreme disadvantage.

Don’t Tell Sophia was 11 lengths behind with a half-mile to go. Fortunately for her, the pace was fast. The stretch runners would have a shot. Rocco turned Don’t Tell Sophia loose on the far turn. She rallied wide, narrowed the gap, and finished second in a gallant effort. Despite the slow takeoff, Don’t Tell Sophia matched her career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 101. There were four Grade 1 winners who finished behind her.

Sims brought Don’t Tell Sophia home to Kentucky for a campaign-concluding start in the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs. Don’t Tell Sophia rallied from last and finished second by a half-length.

Though she did not win her final start at age 6, Don’t Tell Sophia ran well in defeat. It was the 16th consecutive dirt race in which she finished in the money.

Plans call for Don’t Tell Sophia to remain in training at age 7. Overall, she has won 11 races and $1,382,479 from 24 starts. Perhaps the best is yet to come.