Thoughts on Songbird and news of the weekend
Songbird: The scheduled appearance of Songbird before a crowd of more than 100,000 in the May 6 Kentucky Oaks (G1) was called off late Sunday night when owner Rick Porter revealed the superstar filly had a recent training setback after contracting a low-grade fever following the Santa Anita Oaks (G1).
(How much worse would many of us be feeling if she had been an actual Kentucky Derby [G1] candidate?)
Snuffed out as well was the pipe dream some of us had that, perhaps, the undefeated champion might join the Triple Crown party later in, say, the Preakness (G1). That said, the season is long and we can be thankful there are plenty of other opportunities for Songbird to strut her stuff leading up to the Breeders' Cup.
If there is a silver lining, it is that the Kentucky Oaks figures to be a much more contentious affair with significantly more betting interest now that the likely odds-on favorite has been withdrawn.
My Fair Ladies: The Royal meeting at Ascot the week following the Belmont S. (G1) now looks as if it will be swarming with American fillies and mares in all their finery.
In addition to the Wesley Ward-trained Acapulco, who will seek to add a Commonwealth Cup (G1) victory to her score in last year's Queen Mary (G2) at the same fixture, both Tepin and Miss Temple City are under serious consideration for the trip over following major wins at Keeneland.
The brilliant turf champion Tepin, who's increasingly looking like a first-ballot Hall of Famer, has virtually run out of competition on these shores. A stab at Royal Ascot's first race, the Queen Anne (G1), is both ambitious and seemingly within her scope. I'd perhaps give a slight edge now to Solow, the gray gelding that has won 10 in a row and is more familiar with the course having won last year's Queen Anne and Queen Elizabeth II (G1), but I wouldn't put it past Tepin to run him close.
Miss Temple City proved many doubting Thomases, myself included, wrong when beating the boys in Friday's Maker's 46 Mile (G1). A highly respectable fourth at odds of 50-1 in last year's Coronation S. (G1) at Royal Ascot, the Graham Motion trainee is now being considered for the Duke of Cambridge (G2) against fillies and mares over the straight mile course on Day 2.
With the turf sprinter Undrafted also gunning for a repeat score in the Diamond Jubilee (G1), Britain's famous (some say infamous) tabloids might want to start designing the bolded headline: "THE YANKS ARE COMING!"
Effinex: With California Chrome likely to have, at most, two or three more starts this season and none until August, the older male division will be in need of some marquee names in the interim. Effinex appears ready to fit the bill off his fine performance in Saturday's Oaklawn H. (G2), rebounding from and avenging a loss to Melatonin in the Santa Anita H. (G1) when he was suffering from a case of hives.
It will be interesting to see if Effinex makes a return to trip to Churchill Downs, over which he won the Clark H. (G1) in November, for the Stephen Foster H. (G1), or whether trainer Jimmy Jerkens keeps him closer to home and tries for a repeat in the Suburban H. (G2). Either of those races would seemingly be his main pre-Saratoga target.
Apple Blossom Blues: Kudos to trainer Dallas Stewart for his fine handling of Forever Unbridled this winter and spring, gearing the four-year-old filly up to hit the bulls eye in last Friday's Apple Blossom H. (G1) after 2 1/2 months on the shelf. On the downside, the race was yet another disappointment for 2014 three-year-old filly champion Untapable, who set a moderate pace but had nothing left for the stretch and weakened to fourth.
Untapable has now lost six straight since taking the 2015 Apple Blossom, half of them as an odds-on favorite. If her connections choose to press on, the road ahead in such a loaded division looks difficult.
All Over Creation: While it was pleasant to have been the proverbial blind squirrel endorsing Creator in Saturday's Arkansas Derby (G1), I sense that the next 19 days leading up to the Kentucky Derby will leave my brain more than a little fried.
Usually by this time in the Derby process, I will have zeroed in on a few prospects I'm seriously considering. With nearly all of the major final preps run in either slow time or under strange circumstances, I find the current situation more than a little baffling.
Looking back through the years, I personally find this Derby analogous to 2009 and 1992, the latter after the early-morning scratch of A.P. Indy. Hopefully the picture becomes clearer, but I'm not ruling out the possibility it'll make me want to holler and throw up both my hands.