Fox Hill Farm’s undefeated champion Songbird ran her rivals off their feet in Saturday’s $101,380 Santa Ysabel (G3) at Santa Anita, maintaining her position as the early favorite for the Kentucky Oaks (G1).
Doing her Hall of Fame connections – trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and jockey Mike Smith – proud, Songbird sprinted to the early lead through solid fractions of :23.20 and :46.02. The heavy favorite was striding along with apparent effortlessness, but she was burning her foes up. They couldn’t keep up by the time she reached six furlongs in 1:09.98, and Songbird began to draw off by an ever-increasing margin into the stretch.
Although she coasted late, allowing Land Over Sea to erase the deficit to 3 3/4 lengths, Songbird was in control from flagfall to finish. She negotiated 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.02 and paid $2.10 as the 1-20 choice in the betting.
Smith said that he was busy admiring Songbird on the infield video as they sailed down the stretch.
“I got a bit starstruck,” Smith said, “when I looked over at the big screen to see if I needed to do a little bit of work, and I was just in awe of how easily she was doing things, again. I couldn’t seem to take my eyes off the big screen. I told myself, ‘I better get back to it and stay on.’”
Considering that Smith has ridden such outstanding mares as Zenyatta and Beholder, it takes something for him to be starstruck.
“She reminds me a lot of Beholder in her three-year-old year, turning four,” Smith said of Songbird. “When she was three, she was very aggressive, on the lead all the time. But she started to get smarter with age and Songbird seems to be doing the same thing.”
Owner Rick Porter, who races in the name of Fox Hill Farms, is understandably overjoyed with his superstar.
“It’s such a fantastic feeling when you get a horse like this,” Porter said. “I’ve had some good ones, but I’m not sure I’ve ever had one this good.”
Some have been clamoring for Songbird to take on the boys, but her team is adamant about keeping her in her own division for the foreseeable future. The April 9 Santa Anita Oaks (G1) is next. No Derby fever at all in this quarter.
Hollendorfer was asked if it bothers him when people inquire about pitching her in versus males.
“No. That’s what they do on TV and the politicians,” the laconic trainer replied.
Songbird is now a perfect 6-for-6, all by daylight margins, and she has amassed $1,742,000 in earnings. Her position on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard is just as dominant. With another 50 points to her credit from the Santa Ysabel, she has a total of 90.
Land Over Sea increased her Oaks points to 28, while the third and fourth, Mokat and Jade Princess, earned 10 and 5 points, respectively – their first Oaks points.
Photos courtesy Benoit.