07/06/2016 3:56PM

Songbird's appearance would push Coaching Club American Oaks purse to $500,000

Shigeki Kikkawa
Songbird will make her next start in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga.

The New York Racing Association will raise the purse of the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks from $300,000 to $500,000, contingent on undefeated Eclipse Award winner Songbird starting in the July 24 race at Saratoga, track officials announced Wednesday afternoon.

Rick Porter, the owner of Songbird, reaffirmed Wednesday afternoon that Songbird would make her next start in the Coaching Club, a race restricted to 3-year-old fillies and run at 1 1/8 miles. Porter told Daily Racing Form on June 19, the day after Songbird won the Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita, that the Coaching Club would be Songbird’s next start, followed by the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama at Saratoga on Aug. 20 and the Grade 1, $1 million Cotillion at Parx on Sept. 24. Songbird’s year would most likely finish with a start in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita on Nov. 4

At that time, Porter noted that in 2000, when he won the Coaching Club American Oaks with Jostle, the purse of the race was $350,000. Jostle also won the Alabama that year when the purse was $750,000.

In recent weeks, Jerry Hollendorfer, the trainer of Songbird, and Porter discussed the idea of running Songbird against older fillies and mares in the Grade 1, $750,000 Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park on July 16.

But Porter said he had conversations with NYRA officials and “we agreed to go to the race if they were going to raise the pot, so we’re definitely going,” he said.

“The problem with the Delaware Handicap is we didn’t know who was running in it,” Porter added. “To run against older horses we wanted to make sure we thought we could win. I just think it’s better to stay with the 3-year-olds.

“It’s not all about the money; it’s about that I want to be cautious about pushing her too much. Hopefully, if she stays sound, there’s time to go wherever we have to go.”

Porter said Songbird, who is currently based at Santa Anita, is tentatively scheduled to ship to Saratoga on July 19. However, Porter said Hollendorfer is looking into the possibility of shipping in earlier to get more time to train over Saratoga’s main track.