Songbird Makes Saratoga Come Alive
by TERESA GENARO
At 6:15 on a Sunday night, even on opening weekend, even when an undefeated champion is running, Saratoga Race Course is a pretty quiet place, and this evening was no different. A little buzz rippled through the paddock as Songbird passed, but nothing nearly worthy of what this spectacular filly warrants. More than one observer noted the crowd, what was left of it, seemed either not to know who Songbird was, or perhaps not to care.
That was not the case after the race. Roused to excitement when Carina Mia hooked Songbird coming around the final turn, the die-hards on the apron and in the clubhouse boxes sprang to life when it appeared that the favorite might lose, then applauded when she drew off as she pleased, winning by 5 1/4 lengths geared down.
On paper Songbird and Carina Mia were in a different zip code than their three rivals in the Coaching Club American Oaks, and that was pretty much true on the racetrack, too.
It was clear from the start that the only contentiousness in the race would be between these two, and so it was, Songbird leading Carina Mia up the backstretch, lengths ahead of the rest of the very short field.
Racing Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith knows how to make the most of a big moment, and he jogged the now 9-for-9 daughter of Medaglia d’Oro slowly back to the winner’s circle, pausing to look into the infield before bringing her back, encouraging those assembled to sustain their appreciation for just a little bit longer.
The people who didn’t stick around will get another chance to see Songbird here. Saratoga is her home base for the next month as she prepares for a return engagement here in the Grade I, $600,000 Alabama Stakes on Aug. 20. That’s more than the $500,000 the Coaching Club was worth, boosted $200,00 from its original $300,000 because of Songbird’s presences. Owner Rick Porter sounded like he didn’t need any additional financial incentive to run here again.
The owners of the other 3-year-old fillies might, though, given what Songbird has done against her age and sex. It’s hard to quibble with those who want to see her take on males, but Porter seems as disinclined to do that as he was earlier this year, when he was urged by the public to put her on the road to the Kentucky Derby.
There’s a lot of racing left this year, and it’s possible, if improbable, that another 3-year-old filly could challenge Songbird for divisional honors at the end of the year. The question then turns to Horse of the Year, especially if she stays undefeated, especially if the 3-year-old colts take turns winning races through the summer and fall campaigns.
But first, in a month, the Alabama.