Sardella’s Column

No Sopohmore Slump For Super Spa Mare



It is often said in sports that after a big rookie or freshman season, the big concern for a particular player is a “sophomore slump.” When pacing mare Super Soph came to Saratoga Casino and Raceway in 2014 as a four year old, it was not technically her freshman season but she was a newbie to the Spa after changing connections. As a two year old filly racing mostly in the Midwest, Super Soph was simply dominant. She went undefeated in her freshman campaign, winning all nine times she set hoof on the racetrack. She was terrific as a three year old as well, winning ten times and hitting the board sixteen times in 19 starts in 2013. It didn’t take long for the distaffer to acclimate herself to Saratoga once she moved east as she thrived early on in her local career and finished up the ’14 season with just shy of $67,000 in earnings behind five wins and five seconds. Trainer Rob Harmon was the first conditioner to compete locally with Super Soph who changed barns twice within her first couple of months at the Spa. Following a brief stint in the Dan Hennessey stable, Super Soph wrapped up her season in the barn of conditioner Jackie Rousse.   
             Rousse won the local training title in ’07 and ’10 and has consistently finished in the top three in the trainer standings over the course of the last decade. Her stable features a mixed bunch of trotters and pacers, lower level claimers and Open caliber horses. No stranger to top flight contenders, Rousse has trained three previous Horse of the Year winners at Saratoga as her Gimmebackmybullets, Prime Interest and Lorenzo Dream have each earned top honors. Herself a winner of the awards for Trainer of the Year and Horsewoman of the Year twice, Rousse took over the controls on Super Soph last October. In her first season racing locally, Super Soph fared well against the top fillies and mares the Spa has to offer, competing in the Open and prevailing in the ‘Winners Over” late in the year.
             Super Soph kicked off her first full year out of the Rousse stable this spring and immediately performed well. The five year old mare climbed the conditional ranks until she reached top flight competition. Making it up into Winners Over and Open company, Super Soph has been battling the top local lady pacers throughout the summer and now into the Fall. A winner of 24 of 49 career starts coming into the ’15 season, Super Soph has continued her winning ways this year and has become one of the most consistent pacing mares at the track. When any horse puts together a consistent campaign like Super Soph is doing in ‘15, it is usually due to versatility. There are only so many times, for example, that a horse can get to the front end. Also, if a horse is a stone-cold closer, he or she usually doesn’t thrive while competing at a half mile track over the course of an entire season. Super Soph has plenty of early speed and often utilizes it to her advantage but when you look at the charted lines for the mare, you’ll see a mixed bag of leaving and closing.
             Super Soph was dismissed at odds of 18-1 in the Fillies and Mares Open on August 8th. Frank Coppola Jr, who has piloted the mare is each of her local starts this year, sat patiently off the pace before moving to the outside approaching the half. When the distaffers hit the top of the stretch, Super Soph hadn’t made any progress and was still seventh in the field of seven in the $18,000 Friday feature. She shifted gears in the lane and did what very few horses do on a half mile track, go last to first in the final furlong. Following that impressive victory, though, the local rising star hit a bit of a cold streak. She went four starts without finishing better than fifth before dropping down in class a few weeks ago. While squaring off against a little lesser competition than she’s become accustomed to, Super Soph rediscovered her winning way and set a lifetime mark by going wire-to-wire in 1:53. After regaining her form, it was back to the Winners Over where she finished third in a mile paced in 1:52.3. On Friday night, the Rousse trainee was the public’s 6-5 betting favorite in the Open that was contested for a purse of $17,900.
             Super Soph cruised to a wire-to-wire win in the feature, never facing an anxious moment en route to another career best victory. Her score in 1:52.3 was the fastest of her now 31 career wins that have come in 73 lifetime starts. The five year old is slowly building a resume to be a nominee for the track’s Pacing Mare of the Year award. While not likely considered previous to last month, looking at the season she’s had Super Soph has raced at Saratoga 23 times in ’15, seventeen of the starts coming in Open/Winners Over company. In her local tries, the distaffer has earned over $60,000 behind seven wins, four of which came against the track’s top mares, and thirteen starts in the money. While it would likely take a very strong final two months of the season for Super Soph to be a legitimate candidate for top pacing mare honors, she is putting together a solid resume to be a nominee for Rousse who trained the 2011 Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year Golden Ace. Whether she winds up nominated for an end of the season award or not, Super Soph has certainly avoided a sophomore slump in her second year racing at Saratoga.
             Live racing takes place every week on Thursday starting at 4pm. Friday and Saturday night action begins at 6:45pm while Sunday matinees get underway at 12:15pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!               

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