Each year, a number of talented racehorses step foot on the
track and offer great performances. But it is not every year that several truly
elite horses keep the racing atmosphere electric with one brilliant performance
after another. In 2016, American racing fans have witnessed a plethora of
fantastic performances from superb horses. Some of these horses may go down as
all-time greats, some may not, but regardless, it is a great time to be a
racing fan. This series features these horses.
Part Four: Songbird
American racing has been no stranger to brilliant females in recent years, and
Songbird certainly fits the bill. The Medaglia d’Oro filly has shown her
immense talent from the beginning, winning her debut as a two-year-old last
July at Del Mar by 6 ½ lengths with minimal asking from Mike Smith.
With such an impressive debut win, Songbird then made the leap into not only
graded stakes company, but grade one company. She passed that test with flying
colors in the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I), defeating the highly touted Pretty N
Cool by 5 ¼ lengths. Next out, she conquered two turns at Santa Anita for the
first time in the Chandelier Stakes (gr. I), easily defeating Land Over Sea by
4 ½ lengths.
Songbird’s strong resume made her the heavy favorite in the most important race
of the year for two-year-old fillies, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr.
I). In her first start outside of California – against a field that included
Rachel’s Valentina, the grade one-winning daughter of 2009 Horse of the Year
Rachel Alexandra – Songbird did not disappoint, coasting down the Keeneland homestretch
to an absolutely effortless 5 ¾-length victory to clench the Eclipse Award for
2015 Champion Two-Year-Old Filly.
With four wins in just as many starts as a two-year-old under her belt,
Songbird returned as a three-year-old in February, looking to extend her
undefeated winning streak. She did just that in her sophomore debut – the Las
Virgenes Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita – where she opened up on the field as
early as the first quarter and never looked back as she coasted to a 6 ½-length
win without Smith moving a muscle.
Songbird continued her decisive winning ways, taking the Santa Ysabel Stakes (gr.
III) and Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) in as equally effortless manners. The plan
was for her to then travel to the Bluegrass State for the spring classic for
three-year-old fillies, the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), but the talented filly was
forced to miss the race due to fever.
Songbird returned to the races at her home base of Santa Anita in June’s
Summertime Oaks (gr. II), which she won by 6 ½ lengths without any asking from
Smith. By then, Songbird had extended her record to eight-for-eight, but the
filly was facing criticism for beating up on the same California rivals over
and over. That disparagement would soon come to an end.
Jerry Hollendorfer sent his brilliant trainee to Saratoga, where Songbird faced
a showdown with the excellent grade one-winning filly Carina Mia in the
Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I). After setting the pace, Songbird was truly
tested for the first time in her career when the blazing fast Carina Mia collared
her around the far turn. For the first time, Mike Smith had to set to work
aboard the Medaglia d’Oro filly as Carina Mia drew even, appearing to even put
her nose in front for a moment. But at the top of the stretch, Songbird dug
deep as she continued to battle her tough rival and found another gear, drawing
clear and proving her superiority as she crossed the wire 5 ¼ lengths in front.
The superstar filly remained at Saratoga for the Alabama Stakes (gr. I) on
August 20, an iconic race for three-year-old fillies. It was a day to enjoy her
incredible ability as she defeated a field that included graded stakes winners
Family Tree, Go Maggie Go, Weep No More, and Dark Nile by an easy 7 lengths in
her first attempt at a mile and one-quarter.
Songbird has now stretched her record to a perfect ten-for-ten – an impressive
accomplishment in and of itself. She has won those ten starts by a jaw-dropping
combined 54 ¾ lengths – making her average winning margin nearly 5 ½ lengths. In fact,
her narrowest winning margin to date is not narrow by any means: 3 ¾ lengths.
She has won from six furlongs to a mile and one-quarter, and done so in
dominating fashion each time. Although Songbird has not faced males, there
may exist a possibility of that happening in the future. In the meantime, it is hard to
deny that this is one of the most special fillies we have seen.