Songbird sails home in muddy Santa Anita Oaks

Profile Picture: Jen Caldwell

Jen Caldwell

April 10th, 2016

Undefeated champion Songbird had taken on all comers and emerged victorious, but in Saturday’s $400,345 Santa Anita Oaks (G1) the uber-talented filly was facing an off-track for the first time in her career.

It might as well have been fast for all the notice Songbird paid to the sloppy, sealed main track.

Songbird took immediate command of the race out of the gate and never looked back under jockey Mike Smith as she sailed home to yet another effortless victory for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and owner Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms.

The dark bay daughter of Medaglia d’Oro ticked off fractions of :23.34, :47.17, 1:11.21 and 1:37.13 before cruising under wraps to a final time of 1:44.14 for 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita Park. At no point was Songbird challenged, even when Smith geared her down long before the wire, allowing Mokat to cut her six-length stretch advantage to 3 3/4 lengths on the line.

Songbird paid $2.20 as the 1-9 favorite and jumped back on top of the Kentucky Oaks (G1) leaderboard with the 100 points awarded her for winning the Santa Anita Oaks, a race in the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series of points contest.

Mokat earned 40 points and She’s a Warrior, who just missed second by a neck, took home 20 points, but neither of those runners are currently nominated to the Kentucky Oaks on May 6. Forever Darling, who tracked Songbird all the way around the track before being overtaken before the wire, garnered 10 points for fourth. Bellamentary and Kay Kay completed the order of finish.

Songbird is now perfect in seven career starts and has racked up $1,982,000 in lifetime earnings. Among her wins are Grade 1 victories in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Chandelier and Del Mar Debutante last year, which helped earn her an Eclipse Award as champion two-year-old filly of 2015.

Thus far this season Songbird has added the Las Virgenes (G2), Santa Ysabel (G3) and now the Santa Anita Oaks to her resume.

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.

Songbird photo courtesy of Benoit Photos


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.”