Songbird continued her domination of the three-year-old filly division on Saturday despite facing her first true obstacle – a sloppy, sealed track at Santa Anita Park.
The unbeaten filly was trying an off-track for the first time in the $400,345 Santa Anita Oaks (G1), but once again proved why she’s the champion when cruising home an effortless 3 3/4-length winner under a motionless Mike Smith. She ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.14.
Songbird is now a perfect seven-for-seven and has banked $1,982,000 in earnings. She also took home the 100 points awarded to the Santa Anita Oaks winner via the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series of points races. That was enough to catapult the Jerry Hollendorfer pupil back into the number 1 spot on the Kentucky Oaks (G1) leaderboard with 190 total points.
Mokat and She’s a Warrior were only separated by a neck in second and third, respectively, and earned 40 and 20 points toward a starting berth in the May 6 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. However, neither filly is nominated to the $1 million contest.
Forever Darling filled out the fourth spot in the Santa Anita Oaks, good for 10 points and boosting her Kentucky Oaks points total to 20.
Songbird is campaigned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm and has thus far delivered wins in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), Chandelier (G1), Del Mar Debutante, Las Virgenes and Santa Ysabel (G3) to her owners. She also earned an Eclipse Award as the champion two-year-old filly of 2015.
Bred in Kentucky by John Antonelli, Songbird is out of the Grade 2-winning West Acre mare Ivanavinalot, making her a half-sister to the dam of Grade 3 victor Mico Margarita. Others of note in her female family include multiple champions Gallant Bloom and Bowl of Flowers as well as stakes-winning successful sires Graustark and His Majesty.
SANTA ANITA OAKS QUOTES
Mike Smith, jockey Songbird, winner: “She’s just incredible. I feel so blessed and I keep pinching myself, having to remind myself that I’m the one that gets to keep the weight on her. That’s really all I do. She’s so professional, so good at everything.
“She was spinning her wheels a little bit going into the first turn but once we got to the backside, she found her rhythm and she got comfortable and it was all her again.
“It’s pretty slick. It’s safe, it’s got a bottom, but it’s a little slick on top. She ran with normal shoes and was spinning just a little bit leaving the gate but once she was moving forward she was fine.”
Jerry Hollendorfer, trainer Songbird, winner: “I had a little bit of anticipation with the off track, wondering if she could handle it or not. A couple of the horses earlier had stickers on and won, but we didn’t put any on. I don’t think any of the others guys in this race did, either. We didn’t want her slipping, but she didn’t slip, so that’s good.”
Asked if she continues to surprise him: “No. She’s always been well thought of and she’s done everything we’ve asked her and we thought she would do that today. We have the point race coming up (the $1 million Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 6), so if we have good fortune and she stays sound, we’ll try to go to Kentucky and win that one.”
Rick Porter, owner Songbird, winner: “If it doesn’t make an owner smile the way she’s been running, maybe you should try another business. It’s so fun to watch.
“We always figured that she could handle an off track. We’ve found that most really good horses can handle any kind of surface – today, she didn’t show us anything different. It’s so exciting to see the horse perform time after time unasked. I’m so fortunate to have a horse like this.”
On whether he’s considering running Songbird in the Kentucky Derby (G1) rather than the Oaks: “No. I planned from the very beginning…I thought that at her age, particularly with Jerry’s viewpoints (that he doesn’t like to run against the boys), we’d keep her on the filly path. There’s a lot of good races, and there will be a time, if she’s good enough, to take on the boys.
“I think she’s too young to take on the boys with that 20-horse stampede (in the Kentucky Derby). I think the (Breeders’ Cup Classic) would be too tough for her as a three-year-old.”
Flavien Prat, jockey Mokat, second: “She ran great. I mean, that was the game plan, to try to win second which is what we did. I think she ran really good, it’s just that the winner was just way too good for her. But I am really impressed with her and the way she ran today.”