Songbird seeking to continue perfect mark in Coaching Club American Oaks

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Jen Caldwell

July 21st, 2016

Champion Songbird will travel outside of California for just the second time in her career when facing four rivals in Sunday’s $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) on Saratoga’s opening weekend.

Campaigned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms, the popular filly easily carried her talent into last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Keeneland after romping in her three opening races at Del Mar and Santa Anita Park. She returned to California to kick off her sophomore season, capturing the Santa Anita Oaks (G1), Las Virgenes Stakes (G2) and Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita by a combined 16 lengths.

Songbird came out of her Santa Anita Oaks tour de force with a fever, which knocked her out of the Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs, and she returned to action on June 18 at Santa Anita with a 6 1/2-length triumph in the Summertime Oaks (G2).

The Medaglia d’Oro filly recorded four works following that comeback victory, including a bullet six furlongs under regular rider Mike Smith at Del Mar on July 17 in 1:11.40 for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

"If you watch her work, it's just unbelievable," Porter said. "Mike never sat down on her, he let her do the work the way she wanted to do it and it looks like she's just floating in an open gallop, and then those times come up, it's just shocking.

"She had the bullet time for the three-eighths, five-eighths, three-quarters and the seven-eighths, which was a gallop-out. I've never heard of anything like that. And they didn't catch the time right for the half, but she might've had the bullet for the half too."

Songbird arrived Wednesday at the Spa and has settled in well, according to Porter.

"She ate up (Thursday) morning and she was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. After talking to Jerry, they decided to take her out and give her one lap around the track," Porter reported. "She went with the pony and jogged for a mile and an eighth. She wasn't too happy to go back to the barn, she probably wanted to do a little more. She's doing fantastic considering all the travel she's had."

Songbird will break from the rail in Sunday’s CCA Oaks with Smith holding the reins once again. She could face the first real challenge of her career in the 1 1/8-mile contest thanks to the presence of Carina Mia.

That Bill Mott pupil is 4-1-0 from six starts in her career and is riding a two-race winning skein into this contest. Carina Mia made her three-year-old bow in the Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland on April 9 off a more than four-month break and ran fourth. She then showed up at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Oaks (G1) undercard and easily scored by six lengths in the seven-furlong Eight Belles Stakes (G2).

The dark bay daughter of Malibu Moon stretched out to a mile in the Acorn Stakes (G1) most recently on June 11 at Belmont Park and pulled out a 1 1/4-length victory while four wide in the lane. Carina Mia will be trying nine furlongs for the first time while tackling the division leader in the CCA Oaks.

"It's always a new challenge," Mott said of the added distance. "She's adding another sixteenth of a mile compared to what she's ever done before. She's run 1 1/16 miles in a two-turn race; it wouldn't be impossible for her, so we've got to try.

"We're not one to duck away from a challenge, I guess, when we know we've got a good filly," he added. "We're here (at Saratoga) and it's a very important Grade 1 race and we want to find out."

Also lining up in the CCA Oaks is Weep No More, who upset the Ashland by a neck at 30-1 in early April. The Mineshaft filly will try to rebound off a seventh-place run in the Kentucky Oaks on May 6.

Completing the field are Grade 2-placed stakes victress Mo d’Amour, who was fourth in the Mother Goose Stakes (G1) last out and fifth in the Kentucky Oaks, and Grade 3-placed stakes winner Flora Dora.

Songbird photo courtesy of NYRA Twitter