09/24/2016 7:20PM

Songbird runs away with Cotillion triumph

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Barbara D. Livingston
Songbird's victory in the Cotillion on Saturday was her 11th in as many starts.

BENSALEM, Pa. - You couldn’t wipe the smile off jockey Mike Smith’s face.  It wasn’t just that Songbird won Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Cotillion at Parx Racing, it was how she did it.

Songbird was nice and relaxed sitting off of Carina Mia for six furlongs before going after that Grade 1 winner at the five-sixteenths pole and disposing of that rival by the three-sixteenths pole en route to a 5 3/4-length victory.

Carina Mia finished 6 3/4 lengths ahead of Cathryn Sophia. Land Over Sea, Disco Rose, and Queena Esther completed the order of finish.

“Man, that was good,” Smith said. “She was so happy, so cool, calm. She drew away, but she was having fun today. That’s the old her, I was really glad to see that.”

The victory was the 11th in as many starts for Songbird, a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm and trained by the Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer. Her combined margin of victory is 60 1/2 lengths.

Songbird, last year’s 2-year-old filly champion, has now won seven Grade 1 races, four this year including the Santa Anita Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks, and Alabama.

Smith indicated this might have been her best performance yet.

“She seemed to have blossomed, I don’t know if that’s possible; it feels kind of strange saying that as good as she’s been,” said Smith, who has been aboard for all 11 wins. “Look at her color, she was playing in the post parade. I couldn’t believe it. I think she likes the cooler weather a little bit.”

Smith was as interested as everybody else how the race would play out. In the Coaching Club American Oaks, Songbird was the target and it was Carina Mia who went after her at the quarter pole, only to be repelled.

On Saturday, breaking from the rail, Carina Mia went to the lead under Julien Leparoux, set fractions of 23.81 seconds for the quarter, 47.71 for the half-mile, and 1:12.04.

“I was wondering, didn’t quite know,” said Smith, when asked how he thought the race would unfold. “I was going to stay out to see if they wanted to go ahead instead of pressing me on the outside this time, as opposed to the Coaching Club. I did what I did and it worked again. When you ride a filly like this just about anything works, really.”

Leparoux said he rode Carina Mia “the way she wanted to be ridden today. … We had the inside post, she broke good, this time Mike kind of looked at us. We didn’t go crazy, crazy; she fought back, she just got beat today by a champion.”

Songbird covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.02 and returned $2.60 as the 1-5 favorite.

“Here once again Songbird laid off the pace a little and ran at them when Mike asked her to,” Hollendorfer said. “Very grateful for her and I’m very pleased the way she did that today.”

The victory was sweet for Porter, who was hospitalized last month and forced to miss the Alabama. He attended the Cotillion.

“With this filly it’s special anywhere,” he said. “She’s just incredible. The performances she puts in time and time again; the way she gets out of that gate and Mike lets her do what she wants to do. It’s just so much fun to watch her run.”

It wasn’t fun for John Servis, the trainer of Cathryn Sophia, who, along with locally based owner Chuck Zacney, had targeted the Cotillion since the beginning of the year. Cathryn Sophia, sitting third behind Songbird and Carina Mia approaching the quarter pole, came up empty in the stretch under Javier Castellano.

“I’m very surprised, I thought maybe she was a little flat, because I thought she’d be a little closer to the pace,” Servis said. “[Castellano] said ‘no, she was comfortable as can be and I was just sitting.’ He said at the three-eighths pole ‘I thought I was a winner.’ She just didn’t go on.”

Songbird will return to Southern California on Wednesday and point to the $2 million Distaff at Santa Anita on Nov. 4, when she could face champions Beholder and Stellar Wind.

“Jerry and I agree the Distaff is the race to run her in,” Porter said. “I know we’re hooking some big cheese in that race. That’s the fun of it, hook the big ones and hope to beat them.”

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