09/22/2016 1:46PM

Songbird tries to remain top gun in Cotillion

Taylor Ejdys/Equi-Photo
Songbird trains Thursday at Parx under Edgar Rodriguez.

BENSALEM, Pa. – While galloping down the Parx backstretch shortly after dawn Thursday, Songbird spotted the 3-year-old Grade 2-winning male Cupid in the distance. Seemingly displeased with her secondary position, Songbird moved at a steady clip to pass her male counterpart by the quarter pole.

“She’s like Annie Oakley – a sharpshooter with a target,” said Christina Jelm, an assistant to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

In 10 starts to date, Songbird has never missed the target while keeping would-be sharpshooters at bay. On Saturday, Songbird will bid for her 11th consecutive victory in the Grade 1, $1 million Cotillion, part of a solid 12-race card at Parx that also includes the Grade 2, $1.25 million Pennsylvania Derby and Grade 3, $300,000 Gallant Bob.

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After dominating the competition in Southern California and then passing two tests at Saratoga, Songbird finds a new challenger in the Cotillion in the form of Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia.

“None of these races for a million dollars are supposed to be easy,” Hollendorfer said Thursday at Parx. “We’re looking for some good competition in this race. It’s not supposed to be easy, and it probably won’t be.”

Trainer John Servis believes Cathryn Sophia might be the toughest opponent Songbird has faced.

“Not to take anything away from Songbird, but I don’t know if Songbird has run against anything like Cathryn Sophia yet,” Servis said. “It’ll be interesting.”

One of the interesting aspects of the Cotillion is how the 1 1/16-mile race will be run. The naturally speedy Songbird, a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro owned by Rick Porter, obviously will be on the lead under Mike Smith. But who, if anybody, will challenge her early, and how will Cathryn Sophia and Carina Mia be ridden?

Disco Rose and Queena Esther are huge longshots who have a modicum of speed, while Land Over Sea figures to lay back and attempt to make one run.

From Hollendorfer’s standpoint, he will let Smith ride Songbird as he sees fit from post 6. Smith has been aboard for all 10 of Songbird’s races.

“She can be on the lead and going fast, or she can be off the lead and relaxing,” Hollendorfer said. “I think she does what Mike wants her to do, so if he wants her to jump out of there and leave, I think she’ll do it. If he wants her to jump out of there and wait, she’ll wait, and then when he asks her the question, she always, so far, has answered it.”

Cathryn Sophia, a daughter of Street Boss owed by Chuck Zacney, was about four lengths off the pace in her victory in the Kentucky Oaks and about three back early in an absolute romp against far inferior company in the Princess of Sylmar Stakes here three weeks ago.

Servis was not interested in talking tactics Thursday. Cathryn Sophia, who is 6 for 8, will break from post 2 under Javier Castellano.

As a 2-year-old, Carina Mia won the Grade 2 Golden Rod, a two-turn, 1 1/16-mile race, on the lead. But in victories in the Grade 2 Eight Belles at Churchill and the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont – where she beat Cathryn Sophia – Carina Mia came from off the pace.

In the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga on Aug. 27, Carina Mia was on the lead before fading to third in the seven-furlong race.

Carina Mia will be reunited with Julien Leparoux, who rode her in her first seven starts but missed the Ballerina due to injury. She will break from the rail.

The Cotillion goes as race 10 (4:55 p.m. Eastern) on a card that begins at 12:25 p.m.

Key Contenders

Songbird, by Medaglia d’Oro

Last 3 Beyers: 95-101-98

◗ She has won six Grade 1 stakes, and her 10 victories came by a combined 54 3/4 lengths.

◗ Spent the bulk of the summer at Saratoga, where she won two Grade 1 races, including the Alabama, where she was challenged on the lead for six furlongs by Go Maggie Go before drawing off to win by seven lengths.

◗ Hollendorfer liked what he saw Thursday morning, when he watched Songbird gallop.

“She galloped over the track really nice today,” he said. “Some of the horses, I could hear them hitting [the ground]. When she went by, I didn’t hear her, so she’s getting over the track real well.”

Cathryn Sophia, by Street Boss

Last 3 Beyers: 95-95-95

◗ Comes in fresh with one easy race, a 6 1/2-length victory in the Princess of Sylmar Stakes, since a third-place finish in the Acorn in June.

“I wanted to make sure the freshening did what we wanted it to do,” said Servis, who noted that the Cotillion and the Kentucky Oaks were the two races he and Zacney wanted to make this year.

Carina Mia, by Malibu Moon

Last 3 Beyers: 96-93-98

◗ She was turned aside by Songbird after making a run at her approaching the quarter pole in the Coaching Club American Oaks at 1 1/8 miles on July 24.

◗ Appears to be more effective from off the pace, though she couldn’t beat Songbird using that style in the Coaching Club.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 1 Carina Mia. Trainer Bill Mott is 11-4-3-0 with a $4.25 ROI over the past five years going sprint to route in graded stakes on dirt (and 2 for 2 when doing it with Carina Mia). Click for more details. Mike Hogan

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