Songbird stars in G1 Coaching Club American Oaks
by Heather Pettinger
Fox Hill Farm's undefeated champion Songbird will ride her eight-race win streak to historic Saratoga Race Course as the expected favorite in the Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks on Sunday.
Trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, 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 daughter of Medaglia d'Oro has matched the perfect 4-for-4 record of her juvenile year with a quartet of victories at Santa Anita, including the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks in April and, most recently, a 6 ½-length romp in the Grade 2 Summertime Oaks.
Songbird, who has won her eight career starts by a combined 42 ½ lengths, wrapped up her major preparations at Hollendorfer's summer base at Del Mar on July 17, with a six-furlong work in a bullet-earning 1:11.40 under her regular jockey, Hall of Famer Mike Smith.
"If you watch her work, it's just unbelievable," said Rick Porter, owner of Fox Hill Farms, by phone. "Mike never sat down on her, he let her do the work the way she wanted to do it and it looks like she's just floating in an open gallop, and then those times come up, it's just shocking. She had the bullet time for the three-eighths, five-eighths, three-quarters and the seven-eighths, which was a gallop-out. I've never heard of anything like that. And they didn't catch the time right for the half, but she might've had the bullet for the half too."
Porter reported that his star filly has settled into her new surroundings in good shape following her Wednesday arrival at the Spa.
"She ate up [Thursday] morning and she was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. After talking to Jerry, they decided to take her out and give her one lap around the track," said Porter. "She went with the pony and jogged for a mile and an eighth. She wasn't too happy to go back to the barn, she probably wanted to do a little more. She's doing fantastic considering all the travel she's had."
Smith will ride Songbird from the rail.
Grade 1 Acorn winner Carina Mia appears to pose the biggest threat to the formidable champion as she stretches out to 1 1/8 miles for the first time for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
"It's always a new challenge," Mott said of the added distance. "She's adding another sixteenth of a mile compared to what she's ever done before. She's run 1 1/16 miles in a two-turn race; it wouldn't be impossible for her, so we've got to try. We're not one to duck away from a challenge, I guess, when we know we've got a good filly. We're here [at Saratoga] and it's a very important Grade 1 race and we want to find out."
Owned by Three Chimneys Farm, Carina Mia won her two-turn debut as a 2-year-old, taking the 1 1/16-mile, Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs by a front-running 4 ¼ lengths last November. The Malibu Moon filly rebounded from a fourth-place finish in her sophomore debut in the Grade 1 Ashland in April at Keeneland, cutting back to seven furlongs to post a dominating, come-from-behind victory in the Grade 2 Eight Belles at Churchill.
Carina Mia returned on the Belmont Stakes undercard on June 11 with a gutsy off-the-pace bid to win the Acorn by 1 ¼ lengths.
Carina Mia will break from post 2 with regular rider Julien Leparoux aboard.
Also on tap for the Coaching Club American Oaks are Ashbrook Farm's Grade 1 Ashland winner Weep No More for trainer Rusty Arnold; Flora Dora, winner of the Busanda this winter at Aqueduct, from the barn of Marialice Coffey; and King of Prussia Stable's Mo d'Amour, fourth last time out in the Grade 1 Mother Goose, for trainer Todd Pletcher.