ARCADIA, Calif. (March 5, 2016)—Superstar filly Songbird remained unbeaten Saturday at Santa Anita as she cruised under a statuesque Mike Smith to a 3 ¾ length win in the Grade III, $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms, Inc., the 3-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro covered a mile and a sixteenth in 1:43.02 and, according to Hollendorfer, now has her sights set on the Grade I, $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks on April 9.
“I don’t take anything for granted,” said Hollendorfer. “I’m very grateful to win a race like this. I didn’t want to work her into the (Santa Anita) Oaks. I wanted to have a prep and we got the prep today.
“The Santa Anita Oaks would be next and if she looks real good, we’ll try to think about the Kentucky Oaks (Grade I, 1 1/8 miles, May 6). I don’t like to think too far ahead but that’s our long term goal.”
Overwhelmingly favored in a field of nine sophomore fillies at five cents on the dollar, Songbird paid $2.10, $2.10 and $2.10.
With a staggering $823,407 bet to show on her, Songbird accounted for a minus show pool of $158,463. There was $75,897 bet to place on her, creating a minus place pool of $4,900.00.
Breaking from post positon five, Songbird was hustled to the lead by Smith, who got early pressure from longshots Jade Princess and Not Now Carolyn, but began to inch clear leaving the half mile pole and seemed to hit another gear around the far turn.
“I could have let someone go to the lead today, but I didn’t because it was there and it was that easy for her,” said Smith, who has ridden her in all of her races. “It was incredible. I got a bit star-struck when I looked over at the (Infield) big screen to see if I needed to do a little bit of work and I was just in awe of how easily she was doing things, again. I couldn’t seem to take my eyes off the big screen. I told myself, ‘I better get back to it and stay on.’ She was really on her game.”
The Eclipse Champion 2-year-old filly for 2015, front-running Songbird is now unbeaten in six starts. With the Santa Ysabel winner’s share of $60,000, she now has earnings of $1,742,000.
“It’s such a fantastic feeling when you get a horse like this,” said owner Rick Porter by telephone from Kentucky. “I’ve had some good ones, but I’m not sure I’ve ever had one this good.”
Ridden by Mario Gutierrez, Land Over Sea rallied well for the place, finishing 3 ½ lengths in front of Mokat. The second choice in the tote at 13-1, Land Over Sea paid $3.80 and $2.60.
Ridden by Flavien Prat, Mokat was off at 42-1 and paid $5.40 to show.
Fractions on the race were 23.20, 46.02, 1:09.98 and 1:36.09.
First post time for a nine-race card at Santa Anita on Sunday is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.
MIKE SMITH, SONGBIRD, WINNER: “It was incredible. I got a bit star struck when I looked over at the big screen to see if I needed to do a little bit of work and I was just in awe of how easily she was doing things, again. I couldn’t seem to take my eyes off the big screen. I told myself, ‘I better get back to it and stay on.’ She was really on her game.
“Jerry has done such a tremendous job. Jerry, Dan and the whole crew have done such a good job of keeping this great filly really happy. I think she’s happy and getting happier every time I get on her. I’m just blessed that I get to keep the weight on her back. I hope I continue to stay on.
“I think she got a whole lot more out of today then we would have in the a.m. She got to go a half mile in forty six. She had to do some work today but she’s really, really good. You can’t just go around there and not do any work because eventually someone is going to make you run at some point, and you have to be ready.
“I could have let someone go to the lead today, but I didn’t because it was there and it was that easy for her. But if someone was that content on it, they’ll have to definitely run to be able to do it. She’ll let them do it, but they’ll have to throw some numbers up there but I don’t think it’d be a problem. She reminds me a lot of Beholder in her three-year-old year, turning four. When she was three, she was very aggressive, on the lead all the time. But she started to get smarter with age and Songbird seems to be doing the same thing.”
JERRY HOLLENDORFER, SONGBIRD, WINNER: “We just keep doing our job and hope she keeps doing her job and we might end up in some good places with her. We’ve already been to good places with her but we could get to more.
“Not really (when asked if there is pressure in that she’s so popular and such a prohibitive betting favorite). There’s more pressure not having one like this. I’m very grateful to have this filly. I’m very grateful for (owner) Rick Porter and all the people who work with him.
“The Santa Anita Oaks (Grade I, $400,000, 1 1/16 miles on April 9) would be next and if she looks real good, we’ll try to think about Kentucky (the Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 6). I don’t like to think too far ahead but that’s our long-term goal. The intermediate (races) are what we’ve been doing.
“I don’t do that (compare her to other great fillies he has trained). I don’t think it’s fair to her or any of the other great ones that I’ve had. They all had their own styles and individual personalities, so I accept her for what she is. She’s pretty special to me.”
Do people who ask why she’s not going to run against males bother him? “No. That’s what they do on TV and the politicians. If you’re going to run in the big races you’ve got to expect people to look for things that might be vulnerable.
“I don’t take anything for granted. I’m very grateful to win a race like this. I didn’t want to work her into the (Santa Anita) Oaks. I wanted to have a prep and we got the prep today.”
RICK PORTER, SONGBIRD, WINNER: “You never know. A lot of things can happen, especially the way they were talking about how she couldn’t lose today on TVG! You always worry about it.
“It’s such a fantastic feeling when you get a horse like this. I’ve had some good ones, but I’m not sure I’ve ever had one this good.
“Today was mostly about keeping her tuned. There’s two months between the Santa Anita Oaks and the Las Virgenes. Jerry and I talked and we felt that instead of working her to death, we would pick this race, even though a Grade III wasn’t the best thing but it turned out fine and she got plenty out of this race. They tried to challenge her. They went the first quarter in twenty-three and I thought, ‘this is fantastic!’ Then, when I saw forty-six . . . it doesn’t seem to bother her. Mike just has a way with her. He knows how to ride her just perfect.
“I’ll be at Santa Anita for the Oaks. The good Lord willing, I’ll be there! Santa Anita is a good spot. I look forward to coming out there in April.”
NOTES: There was a minus place pool on the race of $4,900.37 and a minus show pool of $158,462.66.
The winning owner is Rick Porter of Lexington, Ky., who races as Fox Hill Farms, Inc.
Source: Santa Anita Park