Track Reports

Santa Anita Stable Notes: Songbird Likely Heads East for Next Race

Songbird wins the Santa Ysabel Stakes - Photo credit: Chris Aplin
Chris Aplin

Wow! If Secretariat moved like “a tremendous machine,” Songbird moves like something “rarely seen,” although when it comes to styles, she is Zenyatta in reverse.

Songbird goes to the front and improves her position.

Zenyatta spotted her rivals seemingly insurmountable leads before running them down with laser-like precision in the stretch.

As the odds-on favorite in six of her eight victories, there is little gain in betting on Songbird except for “bridge jumpers.” In Saturday’s Summertime Oaks, which Songbird captured by 6 ½ lengths, there was a minus place pool of $9,594.35 and a minus show pool of $201,400.83. Of the $244,136 bet to win, $189,093 backed Songbird.

But aside from the mutuel aspect, she is worth the price of admission.

That was the case yesterday when Songbird treated her fans to another dazzling triumph, earning $120,000 for the Fox Hill Farms of Rick Porter, boosting her bankroll to $2,102,000.

Jerry Hollendorfer couldn’t have asked for a more fitting birthday present.

So what if her detractors say she has beaten up on a bunch of tomato cans. That’s not

her fault. Joe Louis beat anybody they dragged into the ring against him. They dubbed his opponents members of “The Bum of the Month Club.”

Sunday morning, Hollendorfer, who turned 70 yesterday, was back at his grandstand perch as is his wont.

“It was fantastic. Everybody’s happy, Mr. Porter’s happy, Mike Smith, everybody,” said the Hall of Fame trainer, with more than 7,100 wins and counting.

As to Songbird’s next race, it likely will be east of California, and not against males.

Said Porter on Facebook: “Songbird came out of the race great and we are looking forward to a race back east. The Coaching Club American Oaks (Grade I, $300,000, 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga July 24) is the obvious choice but the Delaware Oaks (Grade III, $300,000, at 1 1/16 miles July 9) has the same purse and is home base for me (Wilmington, Delaware).

“Even though it is a Grade III we have to consider purses since she has already won multiple Grade I’s including the Breeders’ Cup. Jerry and I will decide shortly.”

Added Hollendorfer: “There’s not going to be much for her at Del Mar, so unless something changes, we would have to go elsewhere to run.

“I don’t know why people keep talking about running her against males. What would the point be? Mr. Porter wants to run her next year, for sure, so why gamble going against colts now?”

Zenyatta did beat males, namely in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita. Her trainer, John Shirreffs, who spent time in Hawaii hanging 10’s after serving with the Marines in Vietnam, liked what he saw when he watched Songbird run in a race for the first time.

“Yesterday was the first time I saw her race live,” he said. “I’ve seen her work a few times and I’ve seen her run on television. I thought she was magnificent yesterday. She looked so good.

“I saw Mike (Smith) kind of hunch over on her a little bit, get down on her out of the gate, and she went to the lead so easy. Then Bellamentary came up on her, matched strides briefly, and she said, ‘OK, I’ll let her go out in front for a little bit.’

“Then as soon as Bellamentary did, Songbird latched on and said, ‘Let’s see how well you want to run with me.’ She was just cruising, and she’s got such a great stride on her. She just picked it up. It looked like she was cantering home.

“It was a really hot day, but you didn’t even see any sweat on her neck or in between her legs. She was so composed.”

Songbird, as usual, was poetry in motion. Where is Keats now that we need him?

Smith, who has ridden the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro in every race, searched for adjectives Sunday to describe his experience with Songbird, superlatives seemingly depleted.

“I’m just blessed to be part of it,” said the Hall of Fame jockey, who turns 51 on Aug. 10. “She came out of the race good and she’s happy.

“I went to the barn this morning and she stuck her head out of the stall like nothing happened yesterday.”

Hollendorfer, meanwhile, didn’t deviate from his workaholic agenda Saturday night. How did he celebrate his birthday and the victory?

“I went home and went to bed.”


Imperative, who has not raced with blinkers in his last five races, will wear the shades when he runs in next Saturday’s Grade I, $500,000, Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Gold Cup at Santa Anita for three-year-olds and up at a mile and a quarter.

Prior to the Native Diver Stakes last Nov. 28, Imperative wore blinkers in 14 straight races, including the rich Charles Town Classic on April 19, 2014, which he won when trained by George Papaprodromou in a 26-1 upset over Game On Dude.

“He’s doing well,” Richard Baltas said of Imperative, a millionaire son of Bernardini that has been in the trainer’s care for his last seven races, each resulting in a paycheck but no wins.

Imperative was second in three straight races, the Grade III Native Diver and the San Pasqual and the San Antonio, both Grade II’s. He rallied for fourth in his last two starts, the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap and the Grade II Charles Town Classic.

“He’s been working on the training track and it’s really helped his feet,” Baltas said. “They’re ice cold, and I’m going to put some blinkers back on him and see if that helps him.

“It seems like he’s been too far out of touch in his last few races.”

Yesterday, Imperative worked six furlongs on the main track in 1:13.80 under Rafael Bejarano, who has the mount in the Gold Cup.

“His feet are good now,” Baltas said, “so we were OK working on the main track.”


Turns out Wild Dude could run in the Triple Bend.

The multiple Grade I winner has been sold to interests in Ireland and will eventually stand in Korea as a stallion, said Jerry Hollendorfer, formerly part owner and the trainer of the six-year-old horse sired in Florida by Wildcat Heir.

But if paper work for the sale and shipping gets snagged in a bureaucratic morass, delaying the process, Wild Dude could remain with Hollendorfer long enough to run in the Grade I, $300,000 Triple Bend for three-year-olds and up at seven furlongs.

“If the paper work is not in order, he could still go in the Triple Bend,” Hollendorfer said.


Champions Beholder and Stellar Wind, one-two in the Grade I Vanity Mile on June 4, could meet again in the Grade I Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on July 30.

Each worked four furlongs early Sunday morning at Santa Anita, Beholder getting the distance in 48.60, breezing, under Janeen Painter, while champion three-year-old female of 2015 Stellar Wind went in 47.80 for John Sadler.

Beholder was given fractional times of 23.60 and 35.60, while Stellar Wind got 24.60 for the quarter mile.

“It was an easy half,” Mandella said of the drill by the six-year-old Beholder, winner of an Eclipse Award at two, three and five. The Hirsch is Beholder’s next major target.

“”Very good” is how Sadler termed the move. “She came out of the Vanity very well and this was her first work back. We’re considering several races, and the Hirsch is one of them.”

Also working a half mile Sunday was Firing Line, runner-up to Triple Crown king American Pharoah in the 2015 Kentucky Derby. He was clocked in 48.60.

FINISH LINES: All’s well with Team O’Neill and Nyquist, as the Kentucky Derby winner jogged Sunday morning, Leandro Morareported . . . Rarest of racing rarities: Not only were four of the six scheduled starters in today’s second race sired in California by Ministers Wild Cat, they break from the gate in the 4 ½-furlong dash in adjacent stalls: Fly to Mars (two), Eichel (three), The Lion Roars (four) and Amazing Love (five) . . . Seven of the 14 entered in Saturday’s ninth race were sired by indefatigable 26-year-old stallion Unusual Heat . . . There were 307 recorded workouts at Santa Anita Sunday, including 39 on the training track . . . Kobe’s Back, prepping for the Triple Bend, went five furlongs for Peter Eurton in 1:00.60 . . . Live racing resumes at Santa Anita Thursday at 1:30 p.m. There is free General Admission Thursday and Friday and free Grandstand parking both days.

Santa Anita Park

To Top

Subscribers receive the latest news, picks and updates from the Dudes. Subscribe now and recieve a one FREE track of our premium picks!

You have Successfully Subscribed!