01/25/2013 4:52PM

Oaklawn Park notes: Sims off to nice start at his first local meet

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Coady Photography/Oaklawn Park
Don't Tell Sophia wins the Pippin Stakes for trainer Phil Sims.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Phil Sims is based at Oaklawn Park for the first time in his 30-year training career, and a fast start at the young meet has him third in the standings. Sims has won with three of his first nine starters, chief among them Don’t Tell Sophia.

Don’t Tell Sophia was a commanding, seven-length winner of the $75,000 Pippin for fillies and mares Jan. 19. With the win, she remained perfect on dirt in three starts. She is 2 for 8 on synthetic and turf surfaces.

Sims said he is now being pointing Don’t Tell Sophia for the $100,000 Bayakoa at Oaklawn on Feb. 16. The 1 1/16-mile race is a stepping-stone to the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom on April 12.

“We’ll see where she takes us, but that is in the back of my mind,” Sims said of the Apple Blossom.

Sims, who co-owns Don’t Tell Sophia with Jerry Namy, has a 15-horse division at Oaklawn. He also keeps another 14 horses at Keeneland. Sims said there were a couple of reasons why he decided to try Oaklawn after being asked to consider the Hot Springs meet by Oaklawn racing secretary Pat Pope.

“The purses are good, and my turf horses, I gave them the winter off,” he said, in reference to the fact that there is no turf course at Oaklawn.

“Things are going well. We’ll keep chugging along and hope it continues.”

Sims is a 51-year-old native of Kentucky. His most noted horse has been Hot Cha Cha, winner of the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland in 2009. Overall, she won four graded stakes and compiled $998,552 in career earnings. Don’t Tell Sophia’s stakes win in the Pippin was Sims’s first stakes score since Hot Cha Cha took the Grade 3 Mint Julep at Churchill Downs in June 2010.

“It kind of broke a little lull there,” Sims said.

The Sims barn is made up of mostly allowance and high-end claiming horses and young horses. One of his better older horses is Ready for More, who was to run Saturday in the $60,000 King Cotton at Oaklawn. Sims on Sunday will be represented by Surprise Surprise. She goes in the featured eighth race at Oaklawn, a first-level allowance for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs. Victor Lebron has the mount from post 9.

Surprise Surprise is by More than Ready and out of the mare Anitas Surprise, who was a multiple stakes winner for Sims.

Sims’s other winners at the meet have come in first-level allowances, with Lady Diva Ga Ga on Jan. 17 and Trans Continental on Jan. 24.

Skyring to Essex

Skyring, who was second by a neck in the $75,000 Fifth Season at Oaklawn on Jan. 11, is to make his next start in the $100,000 Essex Handicap here Feb. 2, said his trainer, D. Wayne Lukas. Skyring is a stakes winner on turf who was making a rare start on dirt in the Fifth Season. Last year, Skyring had won an allowance route on the main track at Churchill Downs.

Donoharm won the Fifth Season, and while plans for his next start have not yet been set, he will be considered for the Essex, trainer Bret Calhoun said. Calhoun said another option is to await the Grade 3, $150,000 Mineshaft Handicap at Fair Grounds on Feb. 23. Donoharm has won his last four starts, in a streak that started at Monmouth Park in August.