Is Songbird Still the Best Best Distaffer in the U.S.?

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D.S. Williamson

August 15th, 2017

2016 was a banner year for fillies and mares. Songbird, the best three-year-old filly since Rachel Alexandra ran roughshod over the division. Beholder and Stellar Wind had a spirited battle throughout the spring and summer. It all culminated in Beholder's nose win over Songbird in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

This year, nobody expects 2017 to be as great of a year for fillies and mares as 2016 was. In fact, the best mares in the nation appear to be on the West Coast. Stellar Wind has thrived while Vale Dori has gotten oh so close to beating her SoCal rival.

Before getting into how great those two mares are running, I analyze Songbird's Delaware Handicap win.

Take Aways From Songbird's Delaware Handicap Win

It's difficult to believe, but Songbird was all out to hold off Martini Glass in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap in her last. Martini Glass, trained by excellent horseman Keith Nations, had finished second to Power of Sunner in the Obeah Stakes as a prep to the Delaware handicap.

For Martini Glass to sniff Songbird in the 1 1/4 mile race, something's amiss, right? Songbird should have won the Delaware Handicap by 10 lengths or more. Is there an issue with Songbird?

That's just it. I don't believe there is. Songbird has won both the Ogden Phipps, and the Delaware Handicap by doing exactly what she did last year. She gets the lead. She gets to the wire first. The difference between this year and last year is that Songbird hasn't improved from her 3-year-old year to her 4-year-old year.

I've noticed that happens more with fillies than colts. Females in most mammal species, human beings included, physically mature much faster than males. Rachel Alexandra certainly did. Faster maturation often times leads to female horses hitting their peak before male horses do.

It happened to Rachel. It might have happened to Songbird. We shall see because unlike her last 2 races, the Personal Ensign on August 26 should attract plenty of talented mares.

What Did We Learn From the Clement L. Hirsch?

The main thing we learned is that the two best distaff horses in the country are on the West Coast. We also learned that Bob Baffert might have an up and coming distaffer in Faithfully.

Stellar Wind won the Clement L. Hirsch by getting past rival Vale Dori. That's twice in a row Vale Dori has lost to Stellar Wind by close margins. It might be interesting to see what would happen if Vale Dori broke to the outside of Stellar Wind. Because she's had to break to the inside of Stellar Wind in the last 2 races, Vale Dori's been sent right to the lead.

Can Vale Dori rate? I'm not sure. Stellar Wind certainly can, which means no matter where Vale Dori breaks, Stellar Wind might get the better of her.

Going back to Faithfully, she made a nice run around the turn, but as I've seen with many horses during the Del Mar Meet, she couldn't accelerate while on the middle of the track. Speed has played well at Del Mar during the entire meet. The Clement L. Hirsch was no different.

Faithfully is expected to be a part of the Bob Baffert brigade on Travers Stakes Day. That's August 26. She might have better luck versus the other horses pointing to the Personal Ensign, Songbird, Martini Glass, Terra Promesa, Carina Mia, etc., than she would against the two best distaffers in the nation.

That's right. Songbird most definitely is not the best distaff horse in the United States. Check out my Top 4:

1. Stellar Wind

2. Vale Dori

3. Songbird

4. Faithfully