04/07/2016 1:40PM

Songbird's Oaks rivals may be battling for second

Emily Shields
Songbird appears to tower over her competition in the Santa Anita Oaks.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Songbird’s win streak has reached six, and her six rivals Saturday will enter the Santa Anita Oaks with corresponding expectations.

“Realistically, we’re all kind of looking at second,” trainer Phil D’Amato said. “But you never know. Songbird could have a bad day.”

It has not happened yet. The undefeated Songbird won all four starts of her 2015 championship campaign and both starts this year for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. In the five weeks since a front-running romp in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel, she has thrived.

“I don’t think we’ve gotten to see how good she is yet, to be honest with you,” jockey Mike Smith said this week on a conference call.

Songbird’s last two workouts under Smith were unforced bullet moves, including a 46.80-second “breezing” work.

“She’ll make a guy who thinks he has a clock in his head not know what time it is at all,” Smith said.

On Thursday, Songbird schooled at the gate and galloped 1 1/2 miles, and she is expected to set the pace Saturday in race 7, the first leg of the pick six.

“It’s Songbird, and it starts the pick six,” racing secretary Rick Hammerle said. “People are coming to see the stars, so why not lap it with the Derby?” The Santa Anita Derby is race 8.

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Songbird faces challenges Saturday in the Grade 1 Oaks – she breaks from an inside post in the 1 1/16-mile race and over a surface that could be wet. Rain is forecast.

Chief rivals for Songbird include the D’Amato-trained Bellamentary and two trained by Richard Baltas – the blinkers-on sprint stakes winner Forever Darling and the late-running Mokat.

Baltas knows his fillies are up against it. “If I can get either one Grade 1-placed, I would be happy … maybe both of them. Who knows? I may run second and third.

“Horses like Songbird don’t come around very often,” Baltas said, adding a tip of the cap to the colt Nyquist. “When was the last time we had two champion 2-year-olds come back as 3-year-olds and still be unbeaten?”

Others in the Santa Anita Oaks include Jade Princess, Kay Kay, and She’s a Warrior.

Santa Anita Oaks, Race 7


Songbird, by Medaglia d’Oro

Last 3 Beyers: 93-88-99

◗ The inside post dictates a front-running strategy for Songbird, who has led at every call in five of her six wins.

◗ Songbird has never worked or raced over a wet surface, but she galloped on a wet track at Keeneland prior to winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

◗ In her most recent start March 5, Songbird won the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes over Land Over Sea, who returned to win the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks by more than four lengths.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 1 Songbird. Her lowest Beyer Speed Figure in six career starts is 84. That’s higher than every one of the 27 races run by her six rivals. Click for more details. Mike Hogan

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Bellamentary, by Bellamy Road

Last 3 Beyers: 78-72-79

◗ Bellamentary started twice last year; her campaign ended after winning a one-mile maiden race. Afterward, she underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove a flake from an ankle.

“It was very, very small,” D’Amato said. “We thought it would be well planned in the sense it would give her a little time to grow up and be ready to run in 2016.”

◗ Bellamentary, 2 for 3, won an allowance sprint in her comeback. She is expected to sit second or third behind the speed.

“If she runs well, we’ll shoot for the Kentucky Oaks,” D’Amato said. Rafael Bejarano rides.

Mokat, by Uncle Mo

Last 3 Beyers: 82-73-64

◗ Mokat has trained exceptionally well since a third-place finish in the Santa Ysabel.

“She needs to settle into stride and make one run,” Baltas said.

◗ Flavien Prat rides Mokat.

Forever Darling, by Congrats

Last 3 Beyers: 47-79-72

◗ The addition of blinkers to Forever Darling is intended to increase focus, not necessarily add speed.

◗ Two turns remains a question for the Grade 2-winning sprinter. Martin Pedroza rides.