Songbird stands up to Carina Mia’s challenge in CCA Oaks
It was also the first start for Songbird at what is affectionately known as the “Graveyard of Champions,” but the popular filly refused to allow anything to mar her perfect record.
Songbird broke on top from her rail post and proceeded to lead the way onto the backstretch while flanked by Carina Mia to her outside. Mo d’Amour and Flora Dora took up running behind those two while Weep No More was never a factor in last.
Songbird set a quick pace through splits of :23.86, :47.52 and 1:11.63 with Carina Mia latched on. The Acorn Stakes (G1) winner ranged up to run in tandem with Songbird rounding the turn and the battle royale was on.
Yet another first happened as Songbird was actually asked for more run by jockey Mike Smith. The Medaglia d’Oro filly had to dig in to turn back Carina Mia’s challenge and was kept to task all the way to the wire instead of coasting home like she’d done in her prior eight starts.
Nonetheless, Songbird refused to yield and finally began opening up to be 5 1/4 lengths clear on the wire while stopping the clock in 1:49.56 over the fast main track. Sent off the 1-5 favorite, she returned $2.60.
Carina Mia was game in defeat, easily best of Flora Dora in third by four lengths. It was another 1 3/4 lengths back to Mo d’Amour, while Weep No More completed the order of finish.
Songbird is now nine-for-nine lifetime and has banked $2,282,000 in her career. The Jerry Hollendorfer pupil has faced nothing but graded rivals ever since breaking her maiden at Del Mar last July, acquiring wins in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), Santa Anita Oaks (G1), Del Mar Debutante (G1), Chandelier Stakes (G1), Las Virgenes Stakes (G2), Summertime Oaks (G2) and Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3).
Next up for the talented miss, according to Hollendorfer, is another stretch-out, this time to 1 1/4 miles in the $600,000 Alabama Stakes (G1) on August 20. Her final goal comes this fall at Santa Anita in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).
Bred in Kentucky by John Antonelli, Songbird is campaigned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms. She is out of the Grade 2-winning West Acre mare Ivanavinalot, making her a half-sister to the dam of Grade 3 scorer Mico Margarita.
Songbird photos courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography & NYRA/Arianna Spadoni/Adam Coglianese Photography
COACHING CLUB AMERICAN OAKS QUOTES
Mike Smith, jockey Songbird, winner: "Songbird's got a big, beautiful stride. I didn't panic. The more (Carina Mia) got on top of her, the more it made her aggressive. I got after her a couple times right then, and that was pretty much it.
"I was surprised at how at the end she was actually pulling away again. But I knew at some point that Carina Mia was going to give me a serious test, an acid test, and she did – she made her do something she never had to do before.
"We'll see what happens. A lot of times, a true champion, this will move them up. This was the first time someone got inside of her gut. A lot of times it'll really move them up, and if that happens, oh my. If this race moves her up like I think it will, there's no telling how good this filly is."
Jerry Hollendorfer, trainer Songbird, winner: "We thought we were going to get tested and we thought Julien (Leparoux) would send (Carina Mia) at us early, which he did. We got a chance to test our filly and she dug in. Great race from (trainer) Billy (Mott)'s filly, too."