Coaching Club American Oaks Preview: Showdown at the Spa

Michael Spector

Undefeated champion Songbird arrived at Saratoga Race Course Wednesday evening shortly before 8 p.m. in advance of her upcoming engagement in Sunday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks.

The reigning Juvenile Filly champion, Songbird alighted at at 6:19 p.m. at Albany International Airport following a flight from California that stopped in Denver and Lexington, Ky., and after stepping off a horse van, posed briefly for photographers before being settled in to her new stall.

Christina Jelm, who is assisting California-based Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer at the Spa, said Thursday plans for Songbird would be determined in the morning, and added that she would school in the paddock between races on Friday.

“She’s had a long day, we’d like to get her settled in before Jerry decides on what to do in the morning,” said Jelm of the Medaglia d’Oro filly, who is putting her 8-for-8 streak on the line in the 1 1/8-mile Coaching Club American Oaks, the purse of which has been raised from $300,000 contingent upon her starting. “She looks great.”

Owned by Fox Hill Farms, Songbird broke her maiden with ease last July at Del Mar and went on to post three more dominating victories last year, all against Grade 1 company and capped off with a 5 ¾-length score in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, en route to earning the Eclipse Award for Champion Juvenile Filly.

As a 3-year-old, the sleek bay filly has matched the perfect 4-for-4 record of her juvenile year with a quartet of victories at Santa Anita Park, including the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks in April and, most recently, a 6 ½-length romp in the Grade 2 Summertime Oaks.

Confirmed to take on the Songbird in the 100th running of the prestigious Coaching Club American Oaks are Grade 1 winners Carina Mia and Weep No More. A six-length victor of the Grade 2 Eight Belles on May 6 at Churchill Downs, Three Chimneys Farm’s Carina Mia returned on the Belmont Stakes undercard with a gutsy off-the-pace bid to win the Grade 1 Acorn for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.

Likely Winners

#1 Songbird – The Bird has arrived at the SPA!  We’ve been saying for months that Songbird is the best 3 year old horse in American regardless of gender, and today she’ll get her first shot as a three year old to prove her brilliance outside the state of California.  Although a win at Saratoga won’t prove she’s better that the boys it will at least prove she’s better than any other horse within her division which is something we don’t know yet as fact.  Since injury knocked her out of the Kentucky Oaks this is now her proving ground, and really there is no better place to prove your worth than Saratoga.  She’ll have to bring her “A game” to win this one, but I believe she will bring it and get it done.

Exotic Plays

#2 Carina Mia – There will be plenty of east coast racing fans that will be calling for an upset today, and I can’t blame them for wanting to try to play this horse as she’s been fantastic in her last two starts.  She also had a recent workout leading up to this that was nothing short of brilliant…so all the signs point towards a huge effort.  With all that being said, I’ve liked Songbird too much for too long to believe Carina Mia can beat her today.  The home track advantage or Carina Mia is going to help her turn this into an absolute slug fest, but in the end I think Songbird is just a little bit better.  This will truly be a classic showdown, and I expect Songbird to be pushed like she’s never been in her career.  A classic duel awaits…

Party Crashers

#4 Weep No More – Well she has pulled off one huge upset this year so why can’t she do it again?  I’m referring to the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes where she caught a tiring Rachel’s Valentina and eventual Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia at the wire to pick up the victory.  It’s going to be much tougher today, but Saratoga graveyard of champions so it would almost be fitting if this late closer pulled another upset here.  It’s very unlikely, but not totally out of the question.  She’s the only true alternative for players not wanting to play the big two at a short price.

Throw Outs

#5 Mo d’Amour – Not sure why they keep throwing her in these tough races as she has some quality and could probably win in an easier spot.  Once again these filly’s are too tough for her, but could pick up the pieces for third with a little bit of luck.

#3 Flora Dora – Double entered in both the Lake George and here in this race…doesn’t have much hope in either spot.

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