Six years ago, barely anyone took heed when Hip No. 2787 walked into the Keeneland sales pavilion. And if trainer Phil Sims hadn’t raised his hand to land the big-bodied bay daughter of Congaree for the minimum $1,000 bid during the 2009 September yearling sale, the filly would have walked out of pavilion as a commercial afterthought.
Grade I winner Don’t Tell Sophia returned to the scene of the turning point of her life on Monday and left with a new, lofty future at hand. With her emotional co-owner and trainer looking on, the 7-year-old mare who was once nearly a no-bid horse became a sought after commodity, selling to representatives of Northern Farm in Japan for $1.2 million during the opening session of the Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale.
Where only Sims saw her value during her early days, Don’t Tell Sophia – who sold in foal to Medaglia d’Oro – opened with a bid of $50,000 and then had the board steadily climb up into the illustrious seven-figure range. Shunsuke Yoshida of Northern Farm called the final bid “a fair price” for a mare that earned $1,382,479 in her career and was second in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
Sims, who sold Don’t Tell Sophia under his Spring Trace Farm banner, had trouble finding the right words to sum up the reality of letting just the second Grade I winner he has trained go across the globe to a new home.
“It’s tough, it’s tough to part with that family,” said Sims, who named the mare after his grandmother, Sophie. “We’re happy with the price, we felt that was right at her value and everything. Just wish the buyers luck with her. But it’s a tough day for us.”
Yoshida added that Don’t Tell Sophia would likely be bred to Deep Impact in 2016. Interestingly, Northern Farm also purchased Hot Cha Cha – Sims’ first ever Grade I winner – for $1 million at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton November sale.
Keeneland has been a turning point for Don’t Tell Sophia at multiple points in her career. She captured the 2014 Grade I Juddmonte Spinster Stakes at the track, upsetting a field that included multiple Grade I winner Close Hatches, and went on to be named an Eclipse Award finalist for champion older female.
Sims owned Don’t Tell Sophia in partnership with Jerry Namy. And while the decision to run her through the ring this year was the sound one from a business standpoint, it wasn’t a conclusion he arrived at with ease.
“Oh we went back and forth, there were a lot of sleepless nights,” Sims said. “At the end of the day, it’s business and we have to stay in business. And the risk is so much with these horses that, if the money was there, you had to go ahead and do what is right for business. But it was a very tough decision to do that.”