06/19/2016 10:28AM

Watchmaker: How special is Songbird? Very special

Shigeki Kikkawa
Jockey Mike Smith gives a thumbs-up after riding Songbird to victory in the Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita on Saturday.

It says a lot about Songbird, and the connection she has made with the racing public, that everyone seems to think they know best what her next start should be. Many of us do love to play “racing manager,” and plot out campaigns for good horses. But with so many playing this game with Songbird, and playing it passionately, it speaks to how special she is.

Songbird was certainly special Saturday in the Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita. Yes, Songbird was 1-20, and was supposed to drub four severely overmatched opponents. But this also was Songbird’s first start back from an illness that prevented her from competing in the Kentucky Oaks, and it was meant only as a springboard to bigger things in the not-too-distant future.

Viewed through that prism, Songbird’s performance Saturday was thoroughly satisfying. Songbird was so dominant winning all seven of her starts before the Summertime Oaks, including what was likely her toughest assignment so far in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland last fall, that she hadn’t faced a challenge of any sort. Songbird wasn’t even remotely challenged on Saturday, either.

However, for the first time in her career, Songbird did allow another opponent to have the lead for the first half-mile, through fractions of 22.97 seconds, and of 45.95. It is difficult to assess how fast this pace was because there were no other main track routes Saturday at Santa Anita, but it felt on the quick side of honest.

No matter. Volleying on the lead through quick early splits with an opponent intent on taking her out of her front-running game made little difference to Songbird. She just put her field away with a burst around the far turn and into the stretch, and won in isolation for the eighth time in as many starts, again while never being asked to run.

Special, indeed.

Okay, so what does Songbird do next?
Even though her connections were customarily conservative in their comments after the Summertime Oaks, her next start seems pretty obvious.
It won’t be the Haskell, the race many in internet-land want Songbird to run; Songbird’s connections are loath to run her against males. Don’t forget, they took the unusual step of announcing in early March that their filly would not race in the Kentucky Derby, and followed through by not nominating her to the Triple Crown. As cool as it would be to see her try something out of the box just to get a sense for the first time of how good she might really be, the position Songbird’s connections have regarding running her against males, at least at this stage of her life, are crystal clear, and should be respected.

It also doesn’t figure to be the Delaware Oaks, a race trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has history with, having won it in 2010 with Blind Luck. The Delaware Oaks is only a Grade 3, but it has a competitive purse of $300,000. The big issue with this race is it will be run July 9, and it’s tough to see Songbird wheeling back in only three weeks.

The obvious fit for Songbird’s next start is the Grade 1, $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga on July 24. The CCA Oaks is a highly prestigious race, on the big stage of Saratoga, and affords Songbird five weeks between starts, which is ideal.

Saturday notes:

**Okay, I know he was 1-10 and was also supposed to win, and he got totally loose on the lead, to boot. But it would be foolish to discount Gun Runner just because his victory in the Matt Winn at Churchill had a low degree of difficulty.

Gun Runner’s good, if tired, third in the Kentucky Derby was better than his victories in the Louisiana Derby and Risen Star, and his Matt Winn performance confirmed he is a colt definitely moving in the right direction. Gun Runner doesn’t need the lead to be effective, and he will have a major say in the Haskell, no matter who shows up there.

**On one level, you have to feel good for Bradester, upset winner of Churchill’s Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap. He’s a 6-year-old horse, out there still punching, delivering honest performances more often than not. It is nice to see his persistence rewarded.

On the other hand, it’s questionable how much of a role the Foster result will play in the handicap division, if any. Once 3-5 favorite Effinex didn’t fire, and he didn’t show up at all, it threw the Foster wide open. And as honest as Bradester is, after 22 career starts, we also know fairly precisely what he is, and he has never been confused for being a legitimate Grade 1 horse.

**Obviously was most impressive winning the Poker Stakes at Belmont as miles the best. He is 8, and he is still a high-class act.
Unfortunately, I can’t get too excited over Obviously’s final time of 1:31.65 for the mile over the Widener turf course. For one, there have been serious timing issues at Belmont, mainly on turf, but also on dirt, and it’s hard to know what times to trust anymore. Secondly, super fast times are more often a function of super fast surfaces rather than super performances, though Obviously is obviously very good.


Chris More than 1 year ago
Some of you guys are funny.  1st off, Songbird is the best 3 year old filly, and perhaps the best 3 year old period.  She dominated in the Breeder's Cup, whether you want to whine and say that was when she was a 2 year old or not.  Horses from all over the country could come out and challenge her.  Funny some use the logic she's not the best until she goes back East to challenge.  Well let's flip that logic and say how can you claim that horse is better when she didnt come out and challenge Songbird?  Time will tell, Songbird is going East, be careful what you ask for.  The horse has never even had to be whipped down the stretch.  

2ndly, she's not going to face Beholder, not this year.  Her connections already said that.  Nor should she.  Take advantage of all 3 year old only races.  Worry about that next year.  
Mickey Davidarsky More than 1 year ago
How difficult can it be to get the time right, aren't we in the digital age?
Eddie Lazaro More than 1 year ago
People should understand that fillies grows slower than colts, and that same can be said with recovery. There are exemptions sure, but in general they are. The connections are right in making her races a little more conservative, to prolong her racing career. Always remember that there are only few of them that comes in a lifetime of a trainer, and would like to keep them in their barns for as long as they can... and the way to make it happen is by picking the races they are more comfortable of her winning and THEY WILL NOT (CONNECTIONS) PUT HER INTO THE FIRE AT THIS YOUNG AGE TO GET BURNED!
Dwight Frey More than 1 year ago
Songbird is the real deal.  She will go back East and trounce those fillies.
Peg Evans More than 1 year ago
A Beholder - Songbird match race would be fantastic!
Eddie Lazaro More than 1 year ago
As good as Songbird is right now, I don't think she's on the same category yet.... Let's give her another year of seasoning, then, maybe!
Bobbie Irish More than 1 year ago
Yes, let's let Songbird grow up first! Fillies mature physically slowly. Heard the other day that Beholder has grown since last year and required a larger girth for her saddle, a couple inches through the chest is a lot! Let Songbird enjoy her early years and let her mature!!!
Mark Howell More than 1 year ago
can  someone  please  tell  me  how  the  9  horse   does  not  get  taken  down  due  to  interfering  with  the 7  horse  in  the  stretch  in  the  last race  at  Belmont.  I  just  have  no idea  with  any  steward  decisions  at  all.
Joel Firsching More than 1 year ago
Stewards want to go home
Jason Rothstein More than 1 year ago
You want a test. Let her and beholder line up in the breeders cup distaff. Guys, don't forget she kicked Rachel Valentina's butt in the breeders cup, last year. Rachel then lost to Cathryn Sophia by a neck in the oaks. I'm an east coast guy, but this filly is very, very special
Jenna Heusi More than 1 year ago
Huh? Rachel didn't lose the oaks by a neck. Cathryn crushed the field.
Eddie Lazaro More than 1 year ago
Beholder will not go back down to distaff, her eyes are set for the Classic, that's $5M purse where a good second is $1M. Songbird, as good as she is, her connections will not run against the likes of Beholder, not this year, not yet, are you kidding??
Joel Firsching More than 1 year ago
She even wants to drift out going into the first like the legit horse of the year winner, rachel alexandra
Roy Wilkinson More than 1 year ago
East coast fans know that Songbird is the best in her division. We just want to see her out here at Saratoga. CCA-Alabama sweep would catch her up with the others in her division. Personal Ensign is also at Saratoga on Travers Day a week after the Alabama. A good chance for her to upstage the Travers if she were dominant. If she pulled a CCA-Ensign double, that would be a Don Corleone move going into the fall.
Tony Kiriakidis More than 1 year ago
Enough with calling her a champ already. The zenyatta approach of beating same overmatched 3 or 4 horse fields is old. Test this horse already if not move her behind Carina Mia and c.s in rankings
Darrell Peck More than 1 year ago
Did you forget the easy Breeders Cup win.  Songbird won that race with ease and doesn't need to prove her ability to anyone.
ED Kike More than 1 year ago
Hater songbird b4 she retires will be one of the greats of our era
Tony Kiriakidis More than 1 year ago
She looked fantastic winning breeders cup I admit. 8 months have gone by now however. She needs a test
Kate Harper More than 1 year ago
What kept any filly in the country from coming to Del Mar last season or SA this year to face her?  She is the champion, the other competitors can either stay where they are and not run against her or enter in one of her past races.  They did not.  Since that is the case, then all of SB's denigrators should just keep their mouths shut.  Besides that, Mr. Porter and Mr. Holldendorfer have already said they will ship her East.  So there you go.  Now what are you going to complain about?  
Christopher Olson More than 1 year ago
You are just being silly. 
Christopher Olson More than 1 year ago
And did you really just slam Zenyatta?  East Coast delusional.
Tony Kiriakidis More than 1 year ago
Not delusional. I had same issue many had with zenyatta. She was great but had so many easy races with 4 horse fields that it took her loss in the classic for me to see her greatness 
Mickey Davidarsky More than 1 year ago
Or, her WIN in the Classic!  If you didn't see her greatness then I don't know what to say.
Christopher Olson More than 1 year ago

Mickey Davidarsky More than 1 year ago
She already won the Breeders Cup for 2yo's last year isn't that enough to be called CHAMPION 2YO FILLY!