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Kentucky Derby notebook: Cathryn Sophia rebounds strongly from Oaks win

LOUISVILLE, KY. — Cathryn Sophia was in good spirits the morning after her commanding win in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks, which had Maryland breeders celebrating the jolt of good publicity the filly will bring to a healing industry.

The Maryland-bred champion cleaned every oat from her feeding tub after the race and greeted trainer John Servis alertly at about 7 a.m. Saturday.

Cathryn Sophia will ship to Servis' home base at Delaware Park on Monday, and from there, the trainer and owner Chuck Zacney will confer over her next step. Zacney said the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes on June 11 at Belmont Park is most likely, but Servis wasn't ready to commit on Saturday.

"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."

Meanwhile, Cathryn Sophia's breeders — Bob Manfuso and Katy Voss — rejoiced at the triumph they always believed she could deliver. Manfuso and Voss own and operate Chanceland Farm, a training and breeding operation in West Friendship.

"To be able to breed a filly who performs at that level of the sport, it's incredibly special to be sure," Manfuso said Saturday morning. "It can only be an incredible plus for a Maryland-bred to compete at that level."

The state's breeding numbers have risen slowly but steadily in recent years, aided by performance bonuses at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course.

"We're finally seeing the gradual rebirth of the breeding industry after we went through tough times in the '90s," Manfuso said. "But the PR value of this, just to have thousands of people hear those words Maryland-bred, it's a wonderful thing."

He predicted a direct boost not only for his farm but for the fall yearling sale in Timonium where Zacney bought Cathryn Sophia for a bargain $30,000.

Manfuso watched the Oaks at Laurel Park, where his belief in the filly paid off one more time. "Fortunately, I made a little investment in her before she won," he said.

Desormeauxs differ

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The Desormeaux brothers, trainer Keith and jockey Kent, had different views of Exaggerator's second-place trip in the Kentucky Derby.

"My horse slammed on the brakes at the 31/2, ducked back to the inside and then took off," said Kent Desormeaux, who has ridden three Derby winners in his Hall of Fame career. "When you see the replay, it will be obvious."

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But his older brother felt Exaggerator, who has lost to Nyquist four times, ran exactly the race they had designed. "I didn't think Exaggerator hit the brakes as much as Kent alluded to," he said. "He burst out of the turn, I thought he had time to catch Nyquist. … I thought for sure we would catch him."

Keith Desormeaux was impressed enough with his horse's effort that he said he wanted a fifth showdown with Nyquist in the Preakness on May 21.

Asmussen pleased with Gun Runner

Trainer Steve Asmussen said third-place finisher Gun Runner delivered the race he wanted and simply could not beat Nyquist.

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"We tried to win," Asmussen said. "I loved where Gun Runner was. I was worried about him going too fast, but you can see that he was relaxed. He's talented. I liked where he was."

Asmussen said his other contender, Arkansas Derby winner Creator, went sideways on the turn and never recovered in a disappointing 13th-place finish.

No repeat for Baffert 

A year after he won the Triple Crown with American Pharoah, trainer Bob Baffert spent the week offering more modest praise for his 2016 Derby contender, Mor Spirit.

As usual, the Hall of Fame trainer was dead-on. Mor Spirit was never in the race Saturday and finished 10th.

"He came away from there OK, and he got a good spot going into the first turn," Baffert said. "Then it just didn't happen from there. He didn't engage. He just didn't have anything to fire for the finish."

So no fifth Derby win for Baffert, who nonetheless spent a happy week reliving American Pharoah's triumphs and visiting his greatest champion at Ashford Stud in nearby Versailles.

childs.walker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/ChildsWalker

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