ARCADIA, Calif. (April 9, 2016)—Sent to the front from the rail in her first-ever start on a sloppy track, undefeated Songbird responded with a brilliant gate to wire performance in winning Saturday’s Grade I, $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks by 3 ¾ lengths under Mike Smith. Last year’s Eclipse Champion 2-year-old filly, Songbird covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.14 and is now unbeaten in seven starts for Fox Hill Farms, Inc. and Jerry Hollendorfer. A Kentucky-bred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, she’ll now be pointed to the Grade I Kentucky Oaks on May 6.
Pressed into the first turn by Forever Darling, who was ridden by Martin Pedroza, Songbird settled into her customary high cruising speed and was completely in charge through fractions of 23.34, 47.17, 1:11.21 and 1:37.13.
“She’s just incredible,” said Smith, who’s been aboard for all seven wins. “I feel so blessed and I keep pinching myself, having to remind myself that I’m the one that gets to keep the weight on her. That’s really all I do.
“She was spinning her wheels a little bit going into the first turn, but once again we got to the backside, she found her rhythm and she got comfortable and it was all her again.”
With a staggering $751,734 bet to show on her, Songbird was dispatched as the overwhelming 1-9 favorite in a field of seven sophomore fillies and paid $2.20, $2.10 and $2.10.
“I had a little bit of anticipation with the off track, wondering if she could handle it or not,” said Hollendorfer. “We didn’t want her slipping, but she didn’t slip, so that’s good…We have the point race (Kentucky Oaks) coming up, so if we have good fortune and she stays sound, we’ll try to go to Kentucky and win that one.”
Ridden by Flavien Prat, Mokat ran on for the place, finishing a neck in front of She’s a Warrior. Off at 14-1, Mokat paid $4.60 and $3.00.
She’s a Warrior, who was handled by Gary Stevens, finished 1 ¾ lengths in front of Forever Darling. Off at 22-1, She’s a Warrior paid $4.20 to show.
MIKE SMITH, SONGBIRD, WINNER: “She’s just incredible. I feel so blessed and I keep pinching myself, having to remind myself that I’m the one that gets to keep the weight on her. That’s really all I do. She’s so professional, so good at everything.
“She was spinning her wheels a little bit going into the first turn but once we got to the backside, she found her rhythm and she got comfortable and it was all her again.
“It’s pretty slick. It’s safe, it’s got a bottom, but it’s a little slick on top. She ran with normal shoes and was spinning just a little bit leaving the gate but once she was moving forward she was fine.”
FLAVIEN PRAT, MOKAT, SECOND: ”She ran great. I mean, that was the game plan, to try to win second which is what we did. I think she ran really good, it’s just that the winner was just way too good for her. But I am really impressed with her and the way she ran today.”
JERRY HOLLENDORFER, SONGBIRD, WINNER: “I had a little bit of anticipation with the off track, wondering if she could handle it or not. A couple of the horses earlier had stickers on and won, but we didn’t put any on. I don’t think any of the others guys in this race did, either. We didn’t want her slipping, but she didn’t slip, so that’s good.”
Asked if she continues to surprise him: “No. She’s always been well thought of and she’s done everything we’ve asked her and we thought she would do that today. We have the point race coming up (the $1 million Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 6), so if we have good fortune and she stays sound, we’ll try to go to Kentucky and win that one.”
RICK PORTER, SONGBIRD, WINNER: “If it doesn’t make an owner smile the way she’s been running, maybe you should try another business. It’s so fun to watch.
“We always figured that she could handle an off track. We’ve found that most really good horses can handle any kind of surface – today, she didn’t show us anything different. It’s so exciting to see the horse perform time after time unasked. I’m so fortunate to have a horse like this.”
(On whether he’s considering running Songbird in the Kentucky Derby rather than the Oaks)
“No. I planned from the very beginning . . . I thought that at her age, particularly with Jerry’s viewpoints (that he doesn’t like to run against the boys), we’d keep her on the filly path. There’s a lot of good races, and there will be a time, if she’s good enough, to take on the boys. I think she’s too young to take on the boys with that 20-horse stampede (in the Kentucky Derby). I think the (Breeders’ Cup Classic) would be too tough for her as a three-year-old.”
NOTES: The winning owner is Rick Porter of Lexington, Ky., who races as Fox Hill Farms, Inc. The Santa Anita Oaks is worth 100 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to the winner, 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth.
Source: Santa Anita Park