01/06/2016 11:27AM

2015 Eclipse Awards: Songbird

Debbie Roma

As we all know, fillies rarely target the Kentucky Derby, and when one does, it’s newsworthy. So, when the connections of a 2-year-old filly announce in December that their charge will pass on the Derby and it makes real news, well, that speaks volumes as to how special that filly must be.

Then again, there wasn’t a scintilla of doubt beforehand how special Songbird is, because she’s been awesome from the moment she first performed in public. Songbird won all four of her starts in 2015, the last three in Grade 1 events, by margins of 6 1/2, 5 1/4, 4 1/2, and 5 3/4 lengths. In other words, while we know she’s special, we still don’t have any clue as to just how special she really is. Songbird hasn’t come close to being tested yet. She is one of the most dominant Eclipse Award finalists of 2015, and in a year when there are a few dominant finalists for various championships, that is yet another illustration of how special Songbird is.

:: 2015 Eclipse Awards: Finalist profiles

Songbird was so good in running away from eight opponents in her debut in July at Del Mar that she was made the even-money favorite against nine opponents in the Del Mar Debutante in her second start. And despite getting hooked in a pace battle through demanding early fractions, Songbird pulled away powerfully in the final furlong.

As impressive as those two victories were, they were mere warm-ups for what Songbird would do in the Chandelier Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. These two races were almost mirror images of each other. Both times, Songbird bounded right to the front under regular rider Mike Smith, opened up on the far turn, and barely had to draw a deep breath to score going away.

But not only did Songbird make winning middle-distance Grade 1 races like the Chandelier and Juvenile Fillies look much easier than it is supposed to be, she also ran faster than 2-year-old males did in Grade 1 events at the same distance over the same track on the same day. Songbird’s final time in the Chandelier was 1.10 seconds faster than the final time in the FrontRunner Stakes, and her final time in the Juvenile Fillies was 1.06 seconds faster than the final time of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. This point is important and cannot be overemphasized. It strongly underscores Songbird’s brilliance. Songbird is in the master hands of Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and is owned by the Fox Hill Farms of Rick Porter. Notably, Porter has a very recent personal frame of reference for the abilities of Songbird because he campaigned the filly Havre de Grace, who was Horse of the Year as a 4-year-old in 2011. Songbird was bred in Kentucky by John Antonelli and is by Medaglia d’Oro and the mare Ivanavinalot, by West Acre, and was purchased for $400,000 by Porter at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale.