Race of the Week 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Past the Grandstand

New Golden Era of Racing, Part Four: Songbird

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.


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About Mary Cage


Mary with champion Classic Empire

Mary Cage, a 21-year-old avid fan of horse racing, has been around horses all her life, having owned, shown, and judged them for as long as she can remember. She began writing her own horse racing blog, Past the Grandstand, in August 2011 and has since been published in America's Horse, American Racehorse and the Appaloosa Journal, as well as with the websites of The Blood-Horse and The Equine Chronicle. She has also had photos published with Paulick Report and Thoroughbred Daily News. In addition, she works as one of the social media coordinators for the Texas Thoroughbred Association and has interned at WinStar Farm with a marketing focus - with projects involving photography, videography, giving tours, data entry, etc. 

In her personal horse experience, Mary has been around horses all her life and has won several Appaloosa National Champion and Reserve World Champion titles in the show ring. She has also worked as a hotwalker and groom.

Mary has always aspired to have a career with horses and since her love for horse racing began, she has dreamed of pursuing a career in the Thoroughbred racing industry, possibly as a writer/photographer and marketing/communications specialist. She is currently attending the University of North Texas, where she is a journalism major with a concentration in advertising and a minor in marketing. With this blog, she hopes to show readers horse racing through the eyes of a young fan and transport you to some of racing's biggest events through her photos and words.

University of Louisville College of Business Equine Program

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